ALEXANDRIA, VA – Vice President Kamala Harris drove a full convoy of Chevy Suburbans into Old Town Alexandria and stopped in front of Danielle Romanetti’s very popular yarn store called fiber space ™ on the corner of Prince, Commerce and West Streets.
She had come to talk shop and listen to the average American women in the small business world.
“I read about your business and what you do, which is the history of all small businesses.” Harris told Romanetti while standing in front of a wall of brightly colored strands of thread, suggesting that all small businesses are a huge economic engine, that of the same ones Things are driven. “It is about one [having a] Ability to share a gift, a passion, and then share it with the community. “
No stranger to yarn
Harris said she was especially excited to see Romanetti’s store because she grew up on a mother who didn’t want her to just sit in front of a TV. And so she said with a laugh: “I have crocheted more Afghans than I can tell you.” and then a pause, followed by an exclaiming hand gesture: “And our daughter is a knitter!”
Romanetti had the opportunity to share how her store sells specialty yarns and products not available anywhere else and that one of the yarns she stocks is from a local dyer and is actually named after the vice president. “Oh really?” Harris laughed, “I’d like to see what color that is!”
A small crowd gathered in front of the light blue brick flat iron building with the sheep in front of it and was politely restrained by US intelligence and the Alexandria police.
“I heard the vice president was in town, so I thought I’d come out and see,” one man told the zebra.
“I’m glad she is here to support a women-run company,” said another unidentified viewer. “
Harris was on his feet in the store for a little over 22 minutes, listening to the staff as they had to adjust over the past twelve months due to social restrictions
“Well, you heard President Biden say today that we will have enough vaccines for everyone by the end of May,” Harris said, trying to reassure people that a return to some sort of normalcy was on the way.
But more importantly, Harris shared that she understands what small businesses, and especially women-owned small businesses, are going through.
“The US bailout is $ 15 billion for small businesses.” She pointed out that a harrowing aftermath of the pandemic was the 2.5 million women who had to quit their jobs to stay home and care Taking care of children, and “we fear that many of them will permanently drop out of the job market until we go to work.”
Romanetti shared some positive points with the vice president, saying that she could not lay off employees because her company was benefiting from the rounds of PPP loans and that her building was bought with an SBA 505 loan and luckily, payments were made through the SBA Program and through your local, regional bank.
But she also said she and others were afraid that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act would expire in late March and that many would not know what to do then. Romanetti has five employees and is asked to keep the salary without an extension.
Romanetti also praised the city of Alexandria, telling Harris that the city invested its federal funds in its small businesses. “We received two grants from the city.”
One gave her the opportunity to redesign her website to bring her inventory online, and the second grant allowed her to expand her outdoor space to accommodate the roadside economy that developed last year.
But as Romanetti pointed out, online consumer spending was only about 20% of total pre-pandemic retail in 2020, and in companies like theirs maybe only about 5-10% really lost by the time we can fully reopen, ”Romanetti stressed .
Before Harris stepped out and said goodbye, Harris reiterated how much she and the President value the small business community. “That’s 50% of the American workforce – 50% own a small business or work for a small company … and [it is] so much the structure of the community. “
MORE ABOUT FIBER ROOM: Fiber Space will be 10 years old in 2019