Editor’s note: The article is part of a package about small business owners struggling with rent obligations.
Dawn Cline, the owner of Aspen Copies & Office Supplies in Los Alamos, New Mexico, home to one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons laboratories, is in a precarious situation. She’s always paid her rent on time since moving to the location in 2006, but the pandemic is hurting her sales. Her landlord hasn’t cut her any slack. In May, her rent increased to just over $3,600.
Cline seems like she deserves a break. Because of the pandemic, her revenue is down roughly half compared to the same time period last year. She’s been using a wheelchair for about a decade because of reflex sympathetic nerve disorder. “I’m in 24-7 chronic burning pain all the time,” she says. Her store’s 1940s-era bathroom hasn’t been updated, which means Cline can’t fit her wheelchair inside it. “Getting inside the bathroom that’s the size of teeny tiny itty bitty little closet—I have to scoot in on handrails,” she says.