Ridgecrest 1 Year Later: hit by COVID-19

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Ridgecrest businesses were already reeling and recovering after the earthquakes, but when COVID-19 hit, it was perhaps the biggest aftershock of them all.

“This building was moving back-and-forth. I just felt like it would fall off,” remembered Hanh Journales, who owns Hanh’s Hair Design on China Lake Boulevard.

Jornales fled Vietnam nearly 50 years ago. She found refuge in Ridgecrest.

“1973 I came here, and after I came here, the communist took over,” she said. “This country has been good so far, thank god.”

She’s since achieved her American dream. When coronavirus struck after the earthquakes, local business owners like Hanh were shaken.

In Ridgecrest, with population 34,000, there have been fewer than 50 cases so far. It was a scramble for businesses to stay open.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin explained, “the businesses that were struggling, people continued to purchase from them, whether it was trying to buy gift cards.”

However, two restaurants were forced to permanently close, Casey’s Steakhouse and Triple T’s Tavern.

“How do you shut down for six or eight weeks and see it didn’t hurt me? It did, and it does, and it continues to,” said Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden.

Nonessential businesses like salons were hurt the most. They trimmed their budgets. Now they’re brushing off the past since they’re allowed to reopen.

“Like from the earthquakes, we’re strong people,” Mayor Breeden said.

Now this small-town America is planning a big-time comeback.

Hanh said, “I was worried but not that much because money is not everything.”

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