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The Uneven Road Ahead for America’s Small Businesses

The pandemic hasn’t been easy for Seattle ice cream entrepreneur Molly Moon Neitzel. The latest federal relief package is boosting her outlook.

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A “really extreme roller coaster.” That's how Molly Moon Neitzel describes what it’s been like to run her eponymous ice cream chain in Seattle during the pandemic. After sales fell off a cliff roughly a year ago, she did her best to use the overwhelmed Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. (See  How a Seattle Ice Cream Maker Navigates Coronavirus Limbo.”) Neitzel was able to catch her breath over the summer as sales increased and supermarkets started carrying pints of such favorites as Scout Mint Brownie and Yeti. “I was like, oh my God, we made it. I'm not going to lose my house; we're not going to go bankrupt,” says Neitzel.

In November, the pandemic worsened and stricter shutdown orders were imposed. Sales at Neitzel’s shops dropped again, and her new wholesale business didn’t meet her expectations. Her desperation mounted. December felt like a repeat of the worst months of the spring all over again. Weighing on her was a $750,000 hole in her 2021 budget. “I couldn’t sleep again,” Neitzel says. “I was starting to lose my hair again. I was really, really, really, really worried.”