Va.’s governor surprises struggling business owners with checks

From left: Maria and George Christou, owners of RTs Restaurant; Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam; and Small Cakes owner Breana Perez on Tuesday. (WTOP/Kristi King)

It had been described as a sit-down with Virginia’s governor to discuss their struggles since the pandemic began. But when it was over, some small-business owners in Alexandria were holding checks with recovery money.

The gathering occurred Tuesday at RT’s Restaurant in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood.

“Is business picking back up?” Ralph Northam asked George Christou, the restaurant’s co-owner.

“Every month is better than the last,” Christou replied.

Asked the same question, the owner of Small Cakes Cupcakery and Creamery talked about strong community support being a blessing that allowed her to stay open.

“It’s still a real roller coaster overall, [but] pretty steady,” Breana Perez said. “It’s been good. It’s been a blessing.”

Northam told those assembled that “money leaders” from the state House and Senate agreed that part of the $4.3 billion in federal money going to the Commonwealth — as part of the American Rescue Plan Act — should go to small businesses.

Then he broke out ceremonial poster board checks of $100,000 for the owners of RT’s — George and Maria Christou — and $15,349 for Perez’s business.

Talking with WTOP after the event, all the business owners expressed gratitude for what the money will mean for them.

“We needed the money to keep the team together and keep this place going,” George Christou said.

“We’re going to keep going. It’s going to happen,” Maria Christou emphasized.

“It’s been hard finding employees and the cost of goods going up is insane,” Perez said. The relief money, she said, will allow her to buy supplies in bulk and beef up her staff.

“Our foreseeable future is growth and we need people to do that,” Perez said.

The owners of both establishments agreed the current situation of supply costs versus what they charge isn’t sustainable.

“If we raise prices, customers aren’t going to be happy,” Perez said.

“We don’t want to do that,” Maria Christou concurred.

Now, they’re all looking toward the future.

“The worst is behind us,” George Christou said.

And Maria Christou added, “Yes, we see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

WTOP’s Kristi King reported from Alexandria.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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