When the pandemic hit and small businesses were shuttered, community banks went to work

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a highly anticipated relief program aimed at helping small businesses in urgent need of funds. But as those involved in the process would tell you, the application process was not always easy. Many small businesses faced confusion as regulatory changes were made to the PPP application, and were seeking help and answers from their bankers.

Working remotely, the Bremer team went above and beyond to process as many PPP loan applications as they could, often working late into the night and many times, into the early morning.

“We could all sense the urgency. Many small businesses reeling from the economic impact of COVID-19 needed funds quickly to keep their business afloat. Bremer began accepting applications as soon as the program opened, and we have worked very hard to get as many loans approved as we possibly can,” said Nick Brinkman, a commercial banker serving the Twin Cities area.

Small businesses are vital to the health of our communities, and we are proud to serve them. Working in shifts and redirecting talent to help process PPP applications for new and existing customers, Bremer helped close to 6,300 small businesses secure more than $1.5 billion in PPP loans and protect the paychecks of up to 170,000 people. These are some of our customers’ experiences with PPP:

Rally Studios

Rally Studios is a full-service production studio based out of Minneapolis. In a normal year, early spring was the time when the agency would typically be pitching new work and filling the calendar year with production work. Because of the pandemic, they are now facing an empty calendar for 2020.

“Our bank at that time provided no help so I turned to Sarah Kinkeade, who I have known for several years,” co-owner Brian Heimann explained. Brian frequented Bremer’s Linden Hills location, a cashless branch with a co-working space, where he first met business banker Sarah Kinkeade.

While busy processing applications for her current customers, Sarah also found the time to work with Brian. Sarah quickly set up Rally’s account with Bremer, assisted them with paperwork, and processed their application without much hassle. “The process couldn’t have been smoother. During such a busy time, Bremer did an outstanding job of making the application experience painless. Phone calls were promptly returned, and email responses were swift,” Brian added. He also appreciated Sarah’s flair of encouragement and positivity, a simple gesture that lifted his spirits.

The PPP loan has provided Rally Studios with an economic lifeline and breathing space to regroup and think of ways to adapt to this crisis; a relief he attributed to Bremer.

“In any line of business, you seek to find valuable, trusted partners that are empathetic and passionate about what they do. We are grateful to be working with Bremer. Thank you for rising to the occasion and meeting the needs of small business.” – Rally Studios.

The Coffee Shop Northeast

The Coffee Shop Northeast, a local favorite with 12 employees, is an important fixture in the Audubon community. The coffee shop contributes to the vibrancy of the neighborhood and is an emotional anchor to those who frequent the place, serving signature drinks and hot meals to businesses and residents for over a decade.

When owners Jodi and Jenni heard about relief programs for businesses affected by COVID-19 on social media, they immediately reached out to Bremer and got in touch with Nick Brinkman. “We were pleasantly surprised by Nick’s quick reply, being as this was at the very beginning of the shutdown and shelter-in-place orders,” they said.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) had not even started accepting PPP loan applications when Nick began working on their application. He expedited their application and stayed in touch with the owners throughout the loan process, which the owners were thankful for. Jodi explained the process, “our application was submitted before people were even talking about. We received approval very quickly and once we signed the documents, the money was in our bank account the next day.”

“This loan has allowed us to reopen with take-out service and bring back employees who were ready and able to come back to work,” Jenni added.

The Coffee Shop Northeast was so impressed by Nick’s commitment that they recommended him to their building tenant, a small vintage clothing store whose owner was having problems securing a PPP loan. The store, Rewind Vintage, was a customer of another large bank at that time and was not receiving help from their bank. With Nick’s assistance, Rewind Vintage was approved for a PPP loan through Bremer.

“Bremer has always made us feel like we matter. As a small business, it is important to trust and know your bank is on your side; that you are not just another number. Bremer does that. We always recommend Bremer when asked who we use and like for our banking. Our experience with PPP reaffirms that we bank with the best. Huge thank-you for always taking care of us.” – The Coffee Shop Northeast.

Northside Pet Hospital

A full-service veterinary medical facility in Eau Claire, the Northside Pet Hospital has been promoting responsible pet ownership and providing quality care to animals since 1987. Having been in business for over 30 years and surviving the 2008 Great Recession, owner Dr. David Menard understands the impact of economic downturns on his business. With COVID-19, Dr. Menard said that business was “down right away” and he knew they “needed to find a way to have some reserves” to keep his business going and keep all 17 of his staff on payroll.

Dr. Menard learned about the details of the PPP from his business banker, Matt Flannery, and he appreciated the heads-up from Matt. “There was so much going on and so many details to understand when this all started. I’ve known Matt for a couple of years now, and he sent details to me before I even knew to ask about it,” Dr. Menard explained.

The PPP process for Northside Pet Hospital was “surprisingly simple,” according to Dr. Menard, who credited this ease to the Bremer team. “They were extremely responsive, especially when you consider the load they were dealing with. If I had a question about the PPP, they answered quickly and made the process as smooth as possible.”

The Northside Pet Hospital initially struggled with deciding the types of services they could offer during this crisis. Today, the hospital is able to resume many of their essential services, and appreciates the help they received from Bremer.

“I felt like Matt and his team really went out of their way to help us get in on a valuable resource that we may not have gotten otherwise. I was very distracted just trying to figure out the future of my practice. While I was aware of the PPP, I did not know the limited time we had to apply. Without Bremer, I may have missed the window to apply and get approved for the program.” – Northside Pet Hospital.

What we achieved together

Since the SBA started accepting PPP loan applications in early April, Bremer has helped thousands of small businesses keep their doors opened and their employees on payroll across our footprint. This is the result of hard work from our customers and the Bremer team. It is heartwarming to see what we can achieve together.