Yakima business owners share their story of pandemic hardship with Rep. Newhouse

YAKIMA, Wash. — Despite the challenges of operating under rapidly changing COVID-19 restrictions for two years, small businesses like Vintage Me and Lulu’s Lunchbox in Yakima are still open.

“Businesses are struggling in a lot of different ways, but also on the bright side, they’re being really creative and coming up with ways to stay afloat and thrive,” U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash, said.

Newhouse met with the owners of several small businesses during his visit Tuesday to Yakima, asking them about the challenges they’ve faced with COVID-19 mandates, supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Alison Crisostomo, owner of Lulu’s Lunchbox, has a cafe located inside her mother’s business, Vintage Me, at 106 S. 3rd St. Crisostomo shared her story with Newhouse, describing what it was like to have to close her business for six months.

“Not being able to support my family when I had to close, that was really hard,” Crisostomo said.

Even after the cafe was allowed to reopen, Crisostomo said she struggled to bring in customers.

“My regulars were no longer downtown, they were working from home,” Crisostomo said. “We really had to strive to grow.”

Crisostomo said she had to start selling more packaged food items in the cafe and both her and her mother started using social media to get new customers — including Facebook Live videos.

However, now that COVID-19 restrictions are more relaxed, Crisostomo said things are looking up.

“We have awesome customers that really supported us,” Crisostomo said. “My goal this year for 2022; to grow my business, to get back to normal.”

Newhouse said he plans to use the information he gleaned from talking with Crisostomo to make legislative decisions and share their stories with other lawmakers.

“I can relate to them the challenges that we’re experiencing and that really helps me to change or improve legislation,” Newhouse said.

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