COVID lockdown is pushing businesses to the brink - just as Christine Zaranko

Christine Zaranko's business Cherry Blossom in Narrabeen has been hard hit by the COVID lockdowns. Photo: Geoff Jones
Christine Zaranko's business Cherry Blossom in Narrabeen has been hard hit by the COVID lockdowns. Photo: Geoff Jones

Christine Zaranko has closed the doors to her iconic business Cherry Blossom for the COVID lockdown and admits she's not sure how much more she can take.

Her iconic clothes and homeware store has been a feature at Narrabeen on Sydney's northern beaches since 2004, but she only purchased it two months before COVID hit last year.

Since then, the single mother has worked seven days a week just to keep her business afloat while she struggles with rising debts and the guilt of how much time her business takes her away from her son.

"I don't know what to do about next week's rent, I can't keep doing this," she said.

She didn't qualify for JobKeeper and had to stand down her staff. She feels as if she's fallen through the cracks of any government support as the pandemic has worn on.

"I don't know how much more I can take financially, let alone mentally," Ms Zaranko said. "Financially it's been very tough with me going from having enough in the bank for a home deposit to being lucky if I have enough to live comfortably later in life."

I don't know how much more I can take financially, let alone mentally.

Cherry Blossom owner Christine Zaranko

While Ms Zaranko now has all her stock online, sales have been slow as the community tightens up on spending amid the lockdown. Despite this, she's hopeful that a spiritual wellness centre she's setting up at the back of her Narrabeen store might help to bolster her business.

Northern beaches business advocate Lisa Llewellyn said many small business owners are holding on "by the skin of their teeth".

"At the moment there's a whole lot of people who are maxing out their credit cards or savings to just to keep going," she said. "My gut instinct is there will be a lot of businesses that can't survive."

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Ms Llewellyn said many businesses owners don't know where to go for help, while others are unsure if they're eligible for government support.

Manly Business Chamber president Charlotte Rimmer said the NSW Government's $75,000 minimum turnover to apply for the latest small businesses grants has been set too high.

While the package is touted as offering support for businesses who continue to incur costs including rent, power and lost produce, she said new and expanding operators are ineligible for any support.

Ms Rimmer said a smaller version of JobKeeper would not only help keep staff employed, but it would also provide support for the economy and boost morale in the community.

"While we appreciate the support of all levels of government and acknowledge that there is a long road ahead to recovery, we are keen to explore all options - vouchers, rent relief, etc - to ensure these businesses are given the chance to survive," she said.

This story 'I don't know how much more I can take' first appeared on Northern Beaches Review.