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'We're running on a skeleton crew' | Virginia businesses reducing hours because of staffing shortages

The owner of Sweetz Bakery says they're hiring and need staff to fulfill shortages.

LEESBURG, Va. — As businesses work to emerge from the pandemic, they're now facing staffing and supply shortages -- forcing some to reduce hours or even close down.

Sweetz Bakery in Leesburg, Va. has certainly felt the squeeze.

“I would say that we're probably about 80% down of our employees," owner Trang Bowers said. "Yes. I mean, we're running on a skeleton crew.”

Often, it's only Bowers' backbone that's keeping her bakery running.

“I work seven days a week, 15 to 17 hour days,” she said.

Bowers said multiple staff members have left to go back to school or take time off for medical reasons -- and she hasn't been able to fill their positions.

“I put in like, 21,000 steps a day… so it's, it's a grueling job, and not a lot of people can do it," she said. "Then on top of that, all of our other businesses that are in our situation are also hiring.”

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She said when it comes to hiring, it's also getting more expensive.

Bowers said they've advertised on sites like Indeed.com for years, but lately, they're increasing their prices to advertise positions.

She said even with paying more, Sweetz will still only receive a few applications, so it's not proving to be worth it.

She's also dealing with supply price increases and shortages.

“Everything has gone up. My containers have gone up 10%," Bowers said. "We use a lot of cream. Cream has gone up. Not only has the supply chain gone up, but the supply chain has, is scarce.”

Mix all of these challenges together, and it's a recipe for closures.

Bowers said they used to only be closed on Mondays, but they've started closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well as in October.

"We're using those days as production days," she said.

RELATED: DMV restaurant owners struggling to find employees as restrictions ease

Credit: Jess Arnold
Sweetz Bakery in Leesburg has had to reduce operating hours because of a prolonged staffing shortage.

The co-owner of Bufords Biscuits in Leesburg, Charles Schech, said they're experiencing a similar situation with applications and reducing hours.

Back in August, they started closing on Wednesdays because of a staffing shortage.

A popular mainstay in Fairfax, Va. Main Street Bagel Deli, posted on their website within the last week that they would be closing due to a staffing shortage.

President of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association, Eric Terry, said they're definitely seeing this trend lately.

“I think, as people go into this, you know, they probably had some PPP money and some other things to help them survive," Terry said. "But now they're going into the slower winter months, and I think you're gonna see more closures even now.”

His association estimates that the pandemic has forced about 20% of Virginia's businesses to cut back -- or close entirely.

“It wasn't their choice to shut down. It wasn't their choice to only require, you know, outdoor dining, or all the things that we restricted them to," Terry said. "So, you know, I think the government's got a role in helping them recover.”

Bowers won't sugarcoat it--it's a daily struggle.

“It's a lot of troubleshooting, putting out fires all the time," she said.

But for now, staying open is icing enough on the cake.

If you want to apply for a job at Sweetz Bakery -- or order from them -- you can do so here.

RELATED: Alexandria considers extending pandemic support to keep more businesses open

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