Trickle Down Liquidation — Small Businesses Bear the Brunt of Pandemic Fallout

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What’s “north to south” to outsiders is east to west for residents of the Constitution State. It’s all about the consistency in labeling given Interstate 95 begins in Florida and ends in Maine. Peruse an artifact once known as a Road Atlas and you will see that what starts out at the New York state border and ends in North Stonington, Rhode Island is anything but “North” on a compass. Opened on January 2, 1958 at the cost of a then exorbitant $464 million, this stretch of 129 miles on I-95 is also known as the Connecticut Turnpike. I’ve memorized every exit from Delavan Avenue in Greenwich just across the Connecticut state line to the very last, Exit 93 at Clarks Falls Road.

But it’s Exit 51, Frontage Road, East Haven, which links to Route 1 tracking the shoreline, that’s nearest and dearest. If you’ll pardon the familiarity, today’s preamble is of a most personal nature. After my father finished his service during Vietnam, my family relocated from San Antonio, Texas to Storrs, Connecticut where my father resumed his studies at the University of Connecticut. At the time in late 1970, I was a wee 2 ½ months old. Though the memories are distant, I cherish the few I have of my grandfather’s Sunoco stations which sat opposite one another on the frontage roads off I-95 in East Haven.

Born May 16, 1921 in Guardiagrele, Italy, Gennaro DiMartino sailed from Napoli and emigrated through Ellis Island when he was two years old. He and his three siblings settled in New Haven where his father worked for the railroad and the family grew from four to seven children. With the country still in the teeth of the Great Depression, in 1936, upon completing 9th grade, Gennaro followed his father and became a laborer on the railroad. And then came war. Stationed in England, the Army Air Corps trained him to be an auto mechanic, which marked a fortuitous turning point.

With peace came a new beginning at New Haven Buick. To this he added a second job at Eliason Motors, a family-owned Studebaker/Edsel dealership. By 1961, “Jerry,” as he was known by then, had the money saved to open his first DiMartino’s Sunoco on the northbound frontage road. He would keep the first dollar bill he accepted in plastic, pin-tacked to the wall for the remainder of his career. A second DiMartino Sunoco (pictured in today’s image) followed a few years later on the southbound side of I-95. A rare gem, an honest mechanic, customers who had been loyal to Grandpa for 30 years were in tears when he finally retired in 1987. Today, the website of Gordie’s Auto Repair in Wallingford, Connecticut reads: “Gordie worked for Jerry DiMartino of DiMartino Sunoco, who was his mentor for many years.”

THAT, is the American Dream, not mortgaging a home or leasing a sports car, but a true “rags to riches” success story that lives on to this day in the succeeding generations’ names. It is also a dream that is under attack. As we’ve been hearing for months, small businesses have largely been left behind by stimulus measures. The Federal Reserve’s policies are aimed at keeping the largest firms with access to the capital markets – both solvent and insolvent – in business. Fiscal policy is now blatantly in the vote-buying business and mind you – it’s a bipartisan affair. As for small businesses, the $669 billion allocated to the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), roughly a quarter of funding Congress has approved, was never fully exhausted. Upon closing August 8, some $134 billion in funds remained.

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