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Gigi's Cupcakes becomes latest small business closed due to the pandemic

The bakery's final day open was Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.

Posted: Dec 30, 2020 11:09 PM
Updated: Dec 31, 2020 12:01 PM

Less than two days before 2021 was ushered in, another business in north Alabama closed its doors permanently due to the pandemic. 

Gigi's Cupcakes in Huntsville was among the latest business casualties of the pandemic. 

Several people wait in line outside of Gigi's Cupcakes on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. The bakery closed permanently due to impacts from the ongoing pandemic.

News of the closure brought dozens of people to the bakery on Wednesday, including Jeffrey Dobbs, whose wife told him about it that morning.

"It's just a shame to see all of these businesses that are having to suffer because of the pandemic now," Dobbs said.

He has fond memories of the shop and its cupcakes, including using them to celebrate his 15-month-old son's first birthday.

"We actually got him Gigi's Cupcakes for his birthday and we let him smash it on our kitchen table and make a big mess. So, it's sad to see this place go. We were looking forward to that for his second birthday," Dobbs said.

Gigi's operated in Huntsville since 2009, but was one of several small businesses that was forced to close in 2020.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau published its latest data set from Phase Three of its Small Business Pulse Survey. In Alabama, the most recent week shows that 29.7 percent of businesses surveyed reported a large negative effect due to the pandemic.

That number has increased since late November and is the highest it's been since late June. 

This most recent week of data also show that 44.9 percent of surveyed businesses are seeing a moderate negative effect and 21 percent are seeing little or no effect.

For some folks like Stephanie Steele, the closure of Gigi's was sad, but not shocking given how difficult the year has been for small businesses, especially many in the food industry.

"We've actually been doing what we can to support them, to try and keep them open, but it takes more than just one family to come and keep them alive," Steele said.

While most businesses have been able to stay afloat during the pandemic, many like The Wine Cellar have also endured their share of hardships.

Owner Annette Birchfield said they had to reduce their stock and eliminate close interactions like wine tastings and their in-person Wine 101 classes.

"I have so many regulars who want to come back and they want to be here, but we just don't feel comfortable. I want to just make sure everyone stays safe, but yeah...it's been tough," Birchfield said.

She said Christmas was helpful since they were able to see gift baskets and bottles of wine, but she said small businesses are being hurt now by people getting a lot of their goods through large market competitors, like Costco and Amazon. 

Birchfield said that makes it all the more painful to see small businesses, like Gigi's, shutter at times like these.

"It broke my heart when you told me that because we used to go there all the time and that was my dad's favorite place. He's sick and so I went and got him a dozen cupcakes just about a month ago for his birthday. So yeah, it's hard, it's so sad to watch these small businesses just not be able to make it," Birchfield said.

She added that the best way to ensure that small businesses survive the pandemic is to find creative ways to support them and to shop locally as much as possible instead of relying on large chains.

Back at Gigi's Dobb's order was among the last in the store's final hours before closing. He believes that everyone needs to step up their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 so that local businesses can come back more efficiently.

"I believe that not a lot of people are taking it seriously, as I was before until, like I said, I looked out the window and there it was: shutting places down and taking lives," Dobbs said.

"I think that the masks are helping, social distancing is helping and better sanitation methods are helping, but I feel like we still have a long way to go, even with the vaccine coming."

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