First the coronavirus pandemic shut down his business.
Then looters came to steal his television inventory.
Finally, needing to replace his stolen merchandise, Good Vibes owner Steve Suderman learned the Mexican TV manufacturing plants that make the models he prefers to sell — 43- to 63- inch Sonys, LGs and Samsungs — have been shut down because of the virus.
As a consequence, supply is limited.
Suderman said he recently placed a $32,000 order for televisions and will be lucky to have one-tenth of it filled.
It all adds up to a tough year, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic and social turmoil stemming from the unjustified killing of a Minneapolis man at the hands of police. And it’s only mid-June.
Nonetheless, Suderman is philosophical about the tough circumstances of the past few months.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. There are conflicting emotions — pride that he and his six employees are back to work, resentment over state-imposed pandemic rules and gratitude for the help he needed to keep his business at 2010 Round Barn Road afloat.
“I’m trying to stay somewhere between not whining and not boasting,” said the 70-year-old Suderman.
Suderman and three partners started Good Vibes, which sells TV and audio gear, in 1971, each one putting up $3,000. When Gov. J.B. Pritzker forced his “non-essential” business to close in late March, Suderman said he “expected disaster,” closing but never reopening.
“We’re a small business that runs on cash flow,” he said.
It didn’t help his outlook when he watched the big-box stores, deemed “essential” by public health bureaucrats, sell televisions like hotcakes.
“They got all the stimulus and tax-refund checks that could have been spent here,” he said.
Conversely, Suderman said “all the companies that we worked with were good at helping us out,” and federal coronavirus loans eased cash-flow concerns.
Suderman said his six employees, furloughed while the business was closed, filed for unemployment compensation, while he worked with customers over the phone behind his closed doors.
“I was here six days a week,” Suderman said.
Hard work and some good luck paid off, laying the groundwork for Good Vibes’ June 1 reopening, in line with Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan.
But the night before the reopening, looters, taking advantage of the turmoil driven by Floyd’s death, hit in what Suderman called a “well-executed smash and grab.”
Breaking in by throwing large rocks through front-door glass, an organized group stole about 20 TVs in four minutes.
“What wasn’t stolen was ruined,” he said.
The events left Suderman feeling “a little bit like Job,” the biblical character forced to endure endless suffering.
But, like many businesses, Good Vibes has faced challenges before and come back. Most notably, a 1977 fire in Campustown burned it and several others, including the Second Chance bar, to the ground. The business moved to its seventh location in May 2019.
Describing his business as “hobbled,” Suderman said he’s spending a lot of time filling out reports for police, the insurance company and the federal government.
He describes it as work “that doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of a customer.”
For now, Suderman said Good Vibes has “reloaded as well as we can,” and he’s looking to the future with hope and confidence.
“I think July will have a lot of normalcy to it,” he said.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at email@example.com or 217-351-5369.