Local diner asking for community help to stay open amid pandemic

Local

SULPHUR SPRINGS, Tenn. (WJHL) – Small businesses across the area struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some who opened in the latter half of 2020 are starting to really feel the pressure.

JJ’s Diner in the Sulphur Springs community officially opened in September. Now, owners are asking for help to keep the doors open, as they cannot get government aid.

Owner Joy Jack told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that she knew opening a 50’s style diner in the middle of a global pandemic would be difficult, but she did not expect to face such hardship a mere five months later.

“Business has been up and down. I have applied for grants and loans, you know, all of the things that the government is offering for small businesses, but since I wasn’t open in 2019, I haven’t been able to receive much of that, so that’s been a little frustrating because I’m a small business too, I have awesome employees that are sticking by me until who knows what happens, but I have offered all of them to ‘hey, if you need to find another job, definitely go for it, I understand,’ but they’re all sticking with me so that gives me more of an incentive to be like ‘okay, what’s the government have to offer me or aren’t there grants or any kind of something to help me out, but we haven’t had much luck,” Jack said.

To qualify for a PPP loan, one of the criteria is that the business be established before February 2020. JJ’s Diner does not qualify.

Jack told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that her fiancé and business partner left in November without warning, leaving her to bear the burden.

“He was my fiancé, we’ve been together for seven years, he was the business partner here. Super, like, really good partner to work with but back in the middle of November he literally up and left,” she explained. “He left with no warning, so I have been stuck with a lot of his responsibility, his bills, or his part of the bills, stuff like that.”

She added that she had been considering getting another job to help supplement the missing payments.

“I’ve been trying to find a second job, but then it comes down to is the money I’m going to make there going to make up for me being gone here, and it’s been complicating,” Jack said.

Jack’s 18-year-old son Cameron Felten told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that he wanted to help his mother keep her business open, and did so the only way he knew how – by opening a GoFundMe.

“In times like this, I knew that it wasn’t necessarily fair to ask other people for money, but being in this community, I know how people are, and we have grown a really huge following of people who really adore us for who we are, and I was sort of looking at it as I just have to try something. I have to try and see what happens and we’ve had some really generous people,” Felten said.

Losing this business would not only hurt his mother, but Felten said it would hurt him too.

“It has been trying times with everything else that’s been going on but I definitely don’t plan on leaving or anything because this place means as much to me as it does for her. We put a lot of work into it and this is something she’s wanted before this place was even thought of and to be able to help her get business and hopefully succeed, it really does mean a lot,” he said.

To support JJ’s Diner located at 1301 Gray Station Sulphur Springs Road, click HERE.

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