How to keep locally owned businesses like Mishka’s, Varsity Theatre, alive during COVID-19

How to keep locally owned businesses like Mishka’s, Varsity Theatre, alive during COVID-19

Photo Credits: Timothy Li / Aggie. The Davis Varsity Theater in Downtown Davis. Davis Varsity Theater is offering movies that you can stream at home

Streaming movies, buying bulk coffee can help protect Davis’ favorite mom-and-pop shops

While many students are away from Davis or staying inside, local businesses struggle to stay afloat. Sinisa Novakovic, the owner of Davis’ local coffee shop Mishka’s and the Davis Varsity Theatre, said that while chain corporations will survive the pandemic, he worries about how small mom-and-pop shops will fare.

“You don’t need any better example than Starbucks and Mishka’s,” Novakovic said. “[Starbucks] could probably ride out 12 months of a total disaster, whereas two months for [Mishka’s] to pay rent and mortgage and food can be devastating.”

Novakovic said he is grateful for the support the Davis community has given to both Mishka’s and the Varsity Theatre. Mishka’s, which is still open daily for take-out, gets about half of its normal number of customers per day despite the pandemic, and many people who are no longer in Davis are purchasing gift cards, merchandise and bags of coffee from the website to support the coffee shop. And currently, 35 movies, with rental prices ranging from $5 to $12, are available to stream on the Varsity’s website

Despite this help from the community, Novakovic worries that, when this is over, small, specialty shops, like Mishka’s, could be wiped out completely if people don’t continue to give support.

“I’ve been going around and telling everybody that even if you’ve always supported a chain it doesn’t matter, just skip it for the next few months and go to your local seller,” Novakovic said. “Soon, it’s going to be a matter of life and death, and many of these businesses will fail. We will have the chains, and nothing will happen to them. But those unique, little places that are special to a locale and don’t exist anywhere else, those are going to be the ones to disappear.”

Although Mishka’s is still able to do business at this time as an essential service, the Varsity Theatre, like movie theaters throughout the country, has been forced to close for the time being. In these unprecedented times, movie studios have teamed up with theaters like the Varsity to continue bringing movies to customers stuck at home. 

This new way of streaming movies has, according to Novakovic, been able to help keep both the studios and theaters afloat.

“A number of small studios that obviously had many movies in the pipeline that were going to premiere in theatres over the coming weeks […] realized that theatres will not be reopening in these months,” Novakovic said. “Instead of just going immediately on demand and trying to get whatever money they can that way, they can try at the same time to help the theatres that normally play their movies and that are basically their partners.”

These studios have begun making movies that were originally planned to premiere in the coming months available to rent through the theaters they were slated to play at. A number of these films, such as “Eating up Easter” and “The Innocent” are available to stream exclusively through theaters, including the Varsity, before they will be made available on demand. 

Written by: Katie DeBenedetti — features@theaggie.org