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'I almost started crying:' South Bend landlord waives April rent for new business owner

NOW: ’I almost started crying:’ South Bend landlord waives April rent for new business owner

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on small businesses in Downtown South Bend. Dozens of parking spaces remain open as more and more people stay home.

The Unique Boutique on Michigan Street downtown has seen a steep decline in sales. So when their landlord told them they didn’t have to pay April rent, it made all the difference.

“Unique Boutique has been here for 9 months,” Traci Winston said, the business owner. “We sell different things from all over the world; India, Africa. It’s pretty hard, things have been slow, people are concerned. Just taking it one day at a time since things are changing every day.”

Winston said she’s worried about the future and she knows she’s not the only one.

“I think about some of the other businesses in the area and I’m like ‘how can we survive this?’”

Her saving grace has been her landlord Mark Tarner who waived rent for the month of April for Winston. Tarner said it’s something he knew he had to do to keep small businesses like her afloat.

“It’s unprecedented you know, I think this is one of those great moments in history. I think it’s going to be worse than the great depression. But my response to it has to be creative otherwise people won’t make it,” Tarner said.

Winston said the gesture might even keep her business open for the long haul.

"I almost started crying, I get choked up when I think about when Mark walked in and said ‘you know don’t worry about rent.’ That played a role in being more resilient through all this,” Winston said. “ I know the government’s trying to help in the best way that they can but it’s going to take our village to bring downtown back alive.”

The Unique Boutique is remaining open during the pandemic. They’re offering delivery services to their customers and shopping by appointment only.

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