Small Businesses Surviving the Season

Jan 1, 2021

George Rouman stands behind a gelato cart in Rouman Cinema.
Credit George Rouman

As people pack away decorations at the close of an unusual holiday season, local business owners analyze their earnings.

Some did better than expected. Others fight to stay afloat.

George Rouman owns Rouman Cinema and the Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe, both in Rhinelander.

“It has been an absolutely brutal year,” he said.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year is one of his busiest times for both businesses, but especially his movie theater.

“[This time] is something that theaters look forward to every year,” he said.

This year, two movies opened on Christmas day – Wonder Woman 1984 and News of the World.

Because of those movies, Rouman’s theaters saw their biggest audiences since March, before the pandemic began.

“It still pales in comparison to even those March numbers,” he said. “But it was by far and away the most bodies that have come through our door in months.”

Rouman said he’s done everything he can think of to make people feel safe in his movie theater, from sanitizing countertops to hosting private showings.

Even so, his theater has taken a major hit compared to last year.

“We’re running at 4 percent of our revenues,” he said. “That’s insane.”

The new federal stimulus package contains a provision that should help.

Rouman said he hopes it will be enough to keep his doors open for another year.

Next year is a big year for Rouman. It will be 100 years since his family first started operating theaters in Rhinelander.

“I’ve been saying all along. I just want to get there. I just want to get to 100 years,” he said.

Unlike his movie theater, Rouman’s candy store has had better fortune.

So has Forth Floral, a Rhinelander business that’s been in Ruth Hempel’s family for 120 years.

Hempel says her flower business is doing as well this year as in years past, if not better.

“I almost hate to say that because there are so many businesses that are struggling,” she said, “but we just happen to be lucky that we’re in the right product category right now.”

Hempel said people send flowers as a way to send their love, and that’s something everyone can use more of.