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‘Scrappy’ Small Business Owner Says $400 Break From Kansas City Is ‘A Ray of Sunshine’

An Zebley, the owner of YUM Bakery, talks about the proposal headed to the Kansas City commissioners that would reduce, defer or even waive some permit fees for small business owners during a press conference outside her bakery Wednesday with Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
An Zebley, the owner of YUM Bakery, talks during a press conference outside her bakery Wednesday with Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a plan Wednesday to reduce or waive certain fees for the Kansas City service industry and small, locally-owned businesses.

Like many small business owners, it’s been a tough year for An Zebler, the sole employee of YUM, a boutique bakery in mid-town Kansas City.

In addition to trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic, Zebler is a COVID-19 long hauler, battling the long-term effects of the virus.

So while a $400 permit fee to the city might not seem expensive to the average business person, she told Mayor Quinton Lucas that it would be a big help to her if she didn’t have to pay it.

Lucas took her up on the idea and on Wednesday announced that he is seeking ways to ways to reduce, defer or even waive certain fees for small businesses affected by the fiscal crisis brought on by the pandemic.

“It is just me,” Zebley told a group of reporters standing outside YUM, where Lucas held one of her fresh-baked loaves of bread.

“So this really is kind of a ray of sunshine,” she said of the plan. “It doesn’t sound like very much. But it is a lot right now. And just the simple fact of being told ‘Hey, we want to help you,’ means a lot, too.”

Lucas’ resolution will be put in motion after the Thanksgiving holiday and would be fully implemented in 2021. But he suggested an urgency to the proposal: “If ever there was a time that we should look to have those efficiencies, it’s now and that’s why we’re launching this work.”

Zebler reached out to Lucas earlier this month following his Tweet seeking ideas to support local businesses. She suggested finding a way the city could help cut the costs of doing business in Kansas City.

Zebley said she has been struggling, like many small businesses, with the strains of the pandemic including getting sick herself and battling with the long-term effects of the virus. Cutting or reducing some of the fees associated with doing business would help out and possibly save businesses like hers, she said.

“This waving the permit fee will really help,” she said, comparing the $400 fee to the cost of her electric bill, and making it one less bill to pay.

The proposal directs the city manager to review all licensing fees for the Kansas City service industry and small, locally-owned business. The goal is to identify for deferral, reduction, or waiver for establishments that remain in full compliance with Kansas City’s emergency COVID-19 order.

Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, said any relief that can be provided to Kansas City restaurants is welcomed.

“Many are small businesses, independent operations, family businesses and don’t have the large capitalization that a lot of the chain restaurants have,” Teel said. “So, anything that can be done to kind of help them get through this storm to get them to next year and survive is important.”

Zebley said she’s grateful for this break from the city, but she also knows that her survival can be chalked up to something else.

"The main reason I'm still open is because I'm scrappy," she said. "Customers come in and ask how things are going. (She tells them) I'm upright and my sign is turned open so we're going to take the win."

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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