Dear Governor Abbott,
I share with you the goals expressed in your executive order, but I am concerned that in the understandable haste to get it issued, insufficient thought was given to the need to keep as much business activity going as possible. There are many businesses that, while not “essential,” pose scant risk of spreading COVID-19 and, if allowed to remain in operation, can contribute an equally “essential” boost to an economy that is surely going to need it. If more businesses aren’t allowed to stay in business, the verdict could well be that the operation was successful, but the patient died.
On Wednesday, April 1, my company, Lone Star Comics, shipped 1,700 orders to customers, many of them wanting something to read while forced to stay home. On Thursday, April 2, we shipped nothing, and I have been forced to furlough 110 employees, our entire Lone Star Comics family.
Lone Star Comics is not open to the public; we are in a warehouse district, and all our business is via internet sales. We’ve had no one sick and have been doing everything recommended to avoid the COVID-19 virus. Our building is 54,000 sq. ft. Our work stations are all at least 6 feet apart, usually more, with separation screens and cubicles. About 20 percent of our workforce is working from home. We all know doing the right thing ensures not only our health but our livelihood. I truly believe my employees are as safe at work each day at our business as they would have been otherwise.
Our “small” business, the largest comic book retailer in the world, does $[redacted] in sales monthly. You’ve taken all that out of the economy. A lot of other businesses depend on us for business. We are, for example, the UPS’ largest north Texas customer among companies solely located in north Texas. Up until yesterday, my family business was writing paychecks to 110 people. We need to get back to that.
For now, we are doing what we can for our employees. For example, we are paying everyone two-thirds of their regular pay for all of April. But we cannot continue to do that, not without sales.
I started Lone Star Comics in 1961 as a kid in junior high, selling comics by mail order out of my bedroom. I put myself through college selling comics. I opened my first of eight brick-and-mortar stores in 1977. Sold them after seeing more opportunity in internet sales. And now, when my business is booming like never before, I see it shut down needlessly. That really hurts.
You, as our governor, understand the important role business plays in keeping our nation healthy. With that in mind, I hope you will amend your mandate so that businesses like mine, businesses that are at very low risk of virus transmission, can continue to operate and, in the process, pump back into the economy much-needed cash and vitality.
Jakey (Buddy) Saunders
PS: In addition to owning the largest comic book retail site in the world, I am also a writer. If you grew up reading stories about Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, you might enjoy my Tarzan and John Carter tales, all written in the spirit of their original creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs. And should you heed my words in this letter, I will have to believe that in a small but very special way, the heroes of my youth came with you to our rescue and that many businesses all across our great state will be the better for it.
This open letter was submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected].