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Newly opened flower shop in Grand Forks concerned about future prospects

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Ra'Chel Alexander, owner of Persephone's Floral, is unsure how long she can stay open. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald)

Not all businesses had an easy time accessing the financial resources made available by the CARES Act. Without additional funding, the owner of a newly opened downtown flower shop isn’t sure how long she can stay open.

Ra’Chel Alexander owns Persephone’s Floral, a flower and gift shop on Kittson Avenue in Grand Forks. The business has existed -- on paper-- since last year. After delays in shipping and getting equipment installed, Alexander opened on April 17, about three weeks behind her schedule. She can pay the rent, for now.

“I accounted for the first couple of months of rent,” Alexander said. “I didn't account for four or five months worth of rent.”

She got assistance to open her shop in the form of loans through the growth fund in Grand Forks, as well as the Bank of North Dakota. The loans totaled about $27,000, with another $9,000 chipped in out of her own pocket. Most of the money went towards the flower cooler.

The coronavirus pandemic that wrought havoc on businesses, brought with it billions of dollars in relief money. That money has dried up, and the Small Business Administration announced Thursday that there would be no more loans until Congress replenishes the programs. Alexander didn’t think her business qualified for the loans anyway.

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“We don't have a lot of the qualifications required like a W2 employee, or 12 months of history, or having all of these assets, like your taxes and all of those things,” Alexander said. “We're brand new, so we're still impacted by the virus; we just don't qualify for that funding.”

Alexander said she didn’t think the government took into account new businesses, such as hers, in the rush to create the relief program that became the CARES Act.

“They obviously didn't take into consideration my loans and my lease,” Alexander said. “All of that stuff was signed before this virus outbreak happened.”

She has houseplants available in her shop, as well as gifts made by craftspeople in the region. The flowers had to be put on hold until she got the cooler installed on Thursday, which delayed the main part of her business, and furthered the uncertainty about being able to make future rent payments.

“Once the flower part opens, I guess I'll have a better idea,” Alexander said. “But if things continue in a downward spiral, then I don't know if we will be able to in a couple months.”

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