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Business & Economy

Black-Owned Columbus Bakery Seeks More Financial Aid While Surviving Pandemic

Letha Pugh is the owner of Bake Me Happy, a gluten-free bakery in Merion Village.
Adora Namigadde

Co-owner of Bake Me Happy, Letha Pugh is hoping Washington D.C. lawmakers listen to her and other small business owners seeking more capital for their small-owned businesses. Pugh is part of a group that recently met with Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) to talk about increasing support from financial institutions.

“An increased awareness that more needs to be done to support Black-owned businesses,” Pugh said. “It needs to trickle down to the actual banks and underwriting. And you know maybe if there’s a scorecard that comes out of this project that highlights exactly what financial institutions are doing to support Black-owned businesses.”

Pugh said her bakery has been able to maneuver around some of the COVID-19 hurdles. Her Merion Village business, which opened a location at the new North Market Bridge Park in Dublin last fall, experienced about a 30% increase in revenue since early 2020 before the pandemic.

“We went from having seating for 35, 40 people, to removing all the seating, putting in glass door coolers and just really switching up how we supplied our products to people,” Pugh said.

The City of Columbus also promoted a “Buy Black Thursday” sales day which Pugh said also made a difference.

“It has been helpful to us because I believe we have had an increase in Black people who do patronize Bake Me Happy, and they’re supporting us for a number of different reasons,” she said.

Pugh said however as a Black, LGBTQ woman and owner of a small business, persuading financial institutions for their support is more difficult.

“We have been given less credit lines, offered less working capital and so I’m bringing some voice to these concerns I have because if it’s affecting me and Bake Me Happy, I know it’s affecting other Black and Brown-owned businesses as well,” Pugh said.

Along with her partner, Pugh said she tried to secure some financial support from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund for a new burger business, but the fund ran out of resources. She’s optimistic a meeting with more lawmakers will bring some relief and enable future growth of her business.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.