Small local businesses are calling the City of Rio Rancho’s Small Business Assistance Program a lifeline.

The City of Rio Rancho received almost $347,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to aid eligible micro-enterprise and small businesses in Rio Rancho’s city limits.

“When we unexpectedly received this federal funding, I strongly advocated that the vast majority of it be used to help our small businesses during these uncertain times,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull. “I am very pleased that we have been able to provide this critical funding to several businesses so far, and I want to encourage more Rio Rancho businesses to apply for assistance.”

This program offers grants from $5,000-$10,000 to micro-enterprise and small businesses of 40 employees or less.

• Micro-enterprises with five employees or less can receive up to $5,000;

• Small businesses with six to 10 employees can receive up to $5,000; and

• Small businesses between 11 to 40 employees can receive up to $10,000.

To be eligible businesses must prove a need for the funds.

A few stipulations include:

• Owners of micro-enterprises must earn under 80 percent of the area median income;

• Small businesses with six to 10 employees must have at least one employee at risk of losing the job due to impacts COVID-19 has had on the business; and

• Small businesses with 11 to 40 employees must have at least one employee for every 10 at risk of losing the job due to impacts COVID-19 has had on the business.

The city began accepting applications June 1 and has awarded $50,000 to eight businesses, said city spokeswoman Annemarie García.

Applications will continue to be accepted until the funds are all used. The city hosted a “how to apply” webinar that can be found at rrnm.gov/assistance, García said.

Over 30 businesses have applied to the program, according to an Inspection of Public Records Act response the Observer received last week.

Sam and Sons Barbershop co-owner Sam Anaya Jr. sanitizes equipment before his next customer. Amy Byres photo.

Sam and Sons Barbershop

Sam and Sons Barbershop received $5,000 from the program. Owner Sam Anaya Jr. said it was a lifeline.

The barbershop has been in Rio Rancho for 18 years come February. Due to the governor’s public-health orders, the shop was closed from March 18 to June 1, with zero revenues.

“The only way to pay the bills during that time would be savings and reserves, with no clients, without being able to offer services,” Dolly Anaya said.

Since June, the shop has been open at 25 percent capacity and is down 70 percent in revenues. Being at 25 percent capacity makes enough money for food and some bills, Sam Anaya said.

“If you don’t work, you don’t make money in this industry,” Dolly Anaya said.

The couple thought the city’s process of choosing which businesses would receive the grant benefited those who have the most need and gave them time to properly apply for the grant.

“For a small business like us, we don’t have attorneys, we don’t know how exactly to fill out the paperwork, it takes us longer; we would have been out immediately,” she said.

Sam Anaya said it was a relief when they were told they would receive the $5,000 grant. A majority of the money will be used for back rent, he said.

The shop has had community support throughout the pandemic, the Anayas said.

“I mean we have had people come and slip an envelope with cash under the door and write a little note saying, ‘Can’t wait to see you guys again and keep your doors open; and an outpouring of community support,” Dolly Anaya said.

She said barbershops have always been in the sanitation business but they are taking extra steps the make customers feel safer.

“There has always been a high level of training for every barber when it comes to sanitation because there are a lot of diseases that they need to be aware of and watch out for, and disinfection processes that are already in place. So we are really up on sanitation,” Dolly Anaya said.

Barbers and client have a special relationship, she said. Dolly Anaya can see customers come into the shop and it is like a weight is being lifted off their shoulders.

There is a strong sense of community in the shop, and they hope to continue being a safe place for customers, she said.

For more information, visit Sam and Sons Barbershop Shop at 4025 Peggy Road or call 892-2490.

The Oval Dogs’s family stands next to coffee beans they were able to purchase through the Small Business Assistance Program with the city. From the left, Autumn, Natasha, Danyelle, Claira is in pink, Beth is holding Thanasi, and Daniel Sanchez. Photo by Amy Byres.

Oval Dogs Coffee

Oval Dogs Coffee received $5,000 from the Small Business Assistance Program.

Owners Daniel and Beth Sanchez opened the roastery and coffee shop in 2017 at 661 Quantum Road, Suite 13. Like Sam and Sons Barbershop, the community has been keeping Oval Dogs going through the pandemic.

In March, Oval Dogs Coffee had customers buy year-long subscriptions of coffee, Daniel Sanchez said.

They have also had support from other roasters like Piñon Coffee and Villa Myriam Coffee Roasters. Piñon Coffee bought $500 worth of coffee from the small business, and Villa Myriam Coffee Roasters helped Oval Dog can their coffee drinks to sell, Beth Sanchez said.

“The roaster community has banded together to help each other out,” she said.

Due to the pandemic, business has been slow, Daniel Sanchez said.

Several of the roastery’s wholesale clients stop buying because of COVID-19 shutdowns. These clients were churches, bars and other businesses that were not selling enough coffee to buy more, Beth Sanchez said.

“So we are hoping those all will build up again,” she said

With a loan from PayPal and the Small Business Assistance Program, the roastery was able to buy the coffee beans and pay rent.

“That was a big thing, because we were running out of product and we didn’t have enough money to buy more product. So then if we don’t have anything to sell, we can’t really make any more money, so we would have been sunk,” Daniel Sanchez said.

Beth Sanchez said the business feels supported by the City of Rio Rancho and its citizens. Moving forward, the couple is hoping for the best but planning for the worst.

“Now going into winter, we are not sure what (business) is going to look like when flu season starts,” Daniel Sanchez said.

The couple is budgeting for less cash flow than normal this winter, he said.

“We are bracing ourselves for it getting worse again, but who knows?” Beth Sanchez said.

For more information about Oval Dogs Coffee, call 585-2418 or search “Oval Dogs” on Facebook to visit their page.

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Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer