Earning

How a furniture store owner in Kansas is getting by and continuing to pay 12 employees during the pandemic

Courtesy Brian Gersh

Brian Gersh isn't worried about his imminent financial future in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. He knows, however, that sacrifices will have to be made later on.

Gersh, 37, lives with his wife and two small children in Kansas City, Kansas, and co-owns a longtime family-run furniture store along the border of Kansas and Missouri with his father.

Gersh's wife, Angela, lost her job as a senior production artist at an interior design company as a result of the outbreak, so the family is down her monthly $2,400 salary. Gersh can still pull a full salary from the furniture store, around $5,500 per month, and he expects to continue generating some income from three rental properties the family owns in the city.

But while he's not worried about putting food on the table, Gersh believes discretionary expenditures like annual trips to visit family will likely have to be forgone this year, as everyone has to cope with the long-term economic fallout of the pandemic. "I'm clear-headed enough that I understand that we're probably only in the first or second inning of a nine-inning game," he says.

Here's how Gersh and his family are making their finances work in the present, as well as planning for the future.

The Gersh family's furniture store.
Courtesy Brian Gersh

The earning strategy: 'Quite a bit of liquidity'

Gersh's grandfather opened Armourdale Furniture in 1937. As an established, 80-year-old company, "we have quite a bit of liquidity," says Gersh. He was able to use that cash to cover two paychecks for himself and his staff of 12 full-time employees after the store had to close in mid-March in accordance with stay-at-home policies. The company also received a $159,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program that will let him keep paying his employees for the next three months and cover his own salary.

Gersh owns and rents out three homes in the city, which brings in another $3,000 per month. Thus far, all of his tenants have been able to pay.

I'm clear headed enough that I understand that we're probably only in the first or second inning of a nine-inning game.
Brian Gersh
Furniture store owner, Kansas City, Kansas

The spending strategy: 'Expenses are dropping quite significantly'

Before the pandemic, Gersh's regular monthly expenses included a mortgage of around $2,000 on his primary residence, $1,100 on groceries and dining out, $500 to $700 in utilities, and $2,200 in child-care costs for his 3-year-old, Jonathan, and 10-month-old, Eden.

Although the family has less coming in without Angela's income, "my everyday expenses are dropping quite significantly," he says. The family is no longer paying any of the child-care costs, for example, and food costs have basically been cut in half because they are cooking at home.

Gersh does have $7,000 in savings, but "I haven't really needed the funds," he says.

The savings strategy: Looking to 'the other side of this'

Gersh and his wife have been talking about how they'll save, going forward, and what the future might look like. "We're talking about what are we gonna do on the other side of this," says Gersh. "In three months, if [Angela doesn't] go back to work and we rely on a single paycheck, what does our lifestyle look like? How often are we able to see [her] family, visit my family?"

Gersh and his son, Jonathan.
Courtesy Brian Gersh

Angela's family is based in Israel, where she's originally from, and Gersh's sister lives in San Diego. The Gershes take one annual trip to Israel at about $1,500 per ticket and several trips a year to San Diego at about $500 per ticket.

This year, given the cuts in their income and uncertainly about the family furniture business as consumers scale back spending, Gersh believes they will not be flying out to see their respective families. And "these are huge bummers," he says.

Still, in the moment and even while in quarantine, there is something to be happy about. "My kids are adorable," he says. "There's gonna be no other chance that you get to spend this kind of quality time with the kids."

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