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Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

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Episode 192: December 18, 2023

Joe Interviews Vitek Kruta and Lori Divine-Hudson, owners of Gateway City Arts

Since opening Gateway City Arts 12 years ago, Vitek Kruta and Lori Divine-Hudson have seen it blossom into a robust center for the arts, live music, and community, and a true destination in downtown Holyoke. They’ve also seen struggles, especially since the pandemic disrupted the model, with ripple effects continuing today. And now, the Race Street property is for sale. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, Vitek and Lori talk with BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar about their experiences at Gateway City Arts, the emotional decision they’ve made, and why they hope the future owner recognizes and continues their vision. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

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Daily News

HOLYOKE — Judd’s Restaurant at Gateway City Arts has a full schedule of events planned for Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14, beginning with its Sunday brunch, served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following brunch at 2 p.m. will be a benefit concert for Safe Passage, featuring “Fantasie for Flute and Piano,” performed by Mosaic, the flute/piano duo of Sue Kurian and Meg Kelsey Wright.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, will feature a kaleidoscope of unusual pieces: two fantasies by Gabriel Fauré and Albert Franz Doppler; two tangos by Astor Piazzolla and Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth; a folk-like, jazzy theme and variation by New Hampshire composer Gwyneth Walker; a haunting nocturne for alto flute and piano by Norwegian composer Johan Kvandal; and flute and piano solos by Arthur Honegger and Clara Schumann.

The concert is part of the classical-music series at Gateway City Arts sponsored by GLC, the venue’s nonprofit arm.

Donations for Safe Passage will be accepted at the door. Safe Passage provides survivors with the support and information to keep themselves and their children safe and to rebuild their lives in the wake of domestic violence. Learn more at safepass.org.

Judd’s Sunday brunch features classic brunch cocktails and a menu of favorites with an Eastern European twist, including crispy potato latkes served with applesauce and sour cream, potato and cheese pierogi, homemade French toast bake, savory and sweet crepes, and more. In addition to the regular menu, there will be Mother’s Day specials. Click here to make Mother’s Day brunch reservations.

Also on Mother’s Day is the weekly Sunday Race Street Bazaar in the music hall at Race Street Live at Gateway City Arts. The bazaar features a variety of vendors offering secondhand goods, collectibles, records, CDs and tapes, clothing, toys, tools, crafts, electronics, and housewares.

Daily News

While the arrival of vaccines is fostering some optimism across this country and we’re hearing phrases like ‘beginning of the end’ (for the pandemic) and ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ the sad fact is that relief won’t come soon enough for some businesses in this region.

The latest victim of the COVID-19 crisis is Gateway City Arts in Holyoke. Owners Lori Divine and Vitek Kruta announced they can longer continue operating their cultural-arts center, which had become such a critical part of Holyoke’s resurgence, and will now attempt to sell the complex.

Their message to the community sums up the plight of so many businesses in this region and the frustration that has accompanied the restrictions, shutdowns, and general lack of support from state and federal officials.

“We have reached the point where we just don’t have the resources and energy to try to survive,” they wrote, echoing the sentiments of many who have been trying, unsuccessfully, to hang on. “It took us 10 years to start feeling that we could make it, and then COVID took it all away.”

The two went on to talk about life just before they were forced to close their doors. There was a sold-out concert with more than 500 people in the Hub (and an impressive upcoming slate of big-name artists), a theater production with more than 100 people, and a full house in Judd’s restaurant. And in the veritable blink of an eye, it was all gone.

Like most small businesses in this region, Gateway City Arts received a PPP loan last spring. It was intended to provide eight to 10 weeks of support and keep people paid — and that’s exactly what it did. The problem, as everyone knows, is that the pandemic has lasted far longer than a few months. No further relief, other than a GoFundMe campaign, was forthcoming, and with no end to this crisis in sight, Divine and Kruta had to let their dream die.

As we all prepare to turn the calendar to 2021, many businesses are some state of peril — and many more dreams may have to die. If there is a lockdown or further restrictions, as many fear is possible, if not imminent — or even if the status quo continues — many more small businesses will be forced to close their doors.

Yes, the vaccines are coming, and yes, there just might be some light at the end of this incredibly long, exceedingly dark tunnel. But for many, it won’t come soon enough. Congress needs to end the stalemate on a new stimulus package and provide relief to individuals and small businesses — not after Jan. 20, not next month, but right now.