The owner of Loon Chocolate in Manchester hopes to expand into a new space complete with a shop where customers can peruse the handcrafted products.

Yes, he knows about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Watson said he hopes to open the shop and new manufacturing space by the end of the year depending on negotiations with the landlord. Loon Chocolate, which sells to other retailers and online, works with ethical traders from small farm growers. With a slogan of “bean to bar,” the company roasts and grinds its own cocoa beans.

Business has been strong with a reported 400% growth in its wholesale accounts. The company adapted when the pandemic hit.

Along with other small businesses, Watson isn’t taking anything for granted and worries about a slowdown in business or possible shutdowns as the winter months approach.

“It could go away at any moment,” he said of current business conditions. He has multiple plans ready if conditions shift.

Small businesses across the country continue to struggle with “pandemic-related headwinds,” according to a survey from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices. The survey included 1,145 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses participants. The program helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing access to education, capital and business support services, according to the Goldman Sachs website.

Nearly 45% of the businesses report less than three months’ cash reserves and 41% worried about the debt accumulated prior or during the pandemic, according to the survey.

Chelsea Stoddard owns two small businesses on Elm Street in Manchester, each with their own set of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queen City Cupcakes is filling almost double its orders to make up for weddings and events canceled last year. Pop of Color, a home decor and gift shop, saw increased sales but not back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are way busier for wedding season than we would have been,” she said.

Pop of Color saw a steady increase in sales each year since opening in 2016. So far, sales have beat 2020, but not 2019, Stoddard said.

She’s worried about the upcoming cold/flu season.

“Are people just going to stay home?” she said.

Government assistance

Nearly 90% of small business owners support the federal government providing additional financial assistance given the rise of new COVID-19 cases, according to the survey.

“Eighteen months of COVID-related economic headwinds have battered America’s small businesses. While many storefronts are reopening, small business owners from across the country are sending a clear message that they need more relief in order to continue on their road to recovery,” said Joe Wall, national director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, in a statement.

Stoddard secured a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through the Small Business Administration, but didn’t need it for Queen City Cupcakes. The store remained closed for nearly two months.

She said she’s back on her feet and likely won’t need additional federal assistance.

The Smoothie Bus, which operates two food trucks, opened its third shop in the former Coldstone Creamery on South Willow Street in Manchester recently. The business has another location on Elm Street in Manchester and another in Concord.

New England Document Systems, which provides professional document scanning services, offsite record storage, saw business slow down significantly early on in the pandemic as employers sent workers home.

President Nick Brattan said the company saw a boost in business for a service that digitizes mail and channels it to home offices.

“We’re the busiest we’ve been in 38 years in the moment,” he said. “We are very lucky.”

The company brought on several new employees during the pandemic.

He said the delta variant worries him, especially the health of his workers. About 80% of the staff has been vaccinated.

“If this continues and gets worse, it is hard to say what it will do for business,” he said.

The company might consider more stringent mask policies while in the workplace. Right now, they only require it for the unvaccinated.

The cold/flu season could disrupt production if workers are out sick.

He thinks more government assistance might be needed for businesses if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse.

Brattan said the PPP loan the company secured was a “lifesaver in many ways” last year. The company was able to keep on all 80 employees.

“That got us through,” he said.