Take a look at which Topeka businesses closed in 2020 — and which opened despite the odds.

India Yarborough
Topeka Capital-Journal
A closed sign is displayed at The Tipsy Carrot, 922 N. Kansas Ave., on April 21. The Tipsy Carrot was one of almost a dozen Topeka small businesses that closed in 2020.

In a year marked by economic uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, nearly a dozen Topeka small businesses shuttered their doors for good.

Among those local businesses that permanently closed in 2020 were Briman's Leading Jewelers, two of four Baker's Dozen locations, Lazio's Coffee Bar & RoasterieMidland Care Findables, NOTO Burrito, PT's Coffee at College Hill, RowHouse Restaurant, Starlite Skate Center and The Tipsy Carrot.

Though they weren't small businesses, Carlos O'Kelly's restaurant and the Topeka Gordmans also shut down.

Not all of the aforementioned closures were directly related to the coronavirus. But some — including that of Baker's DozenLazio's, Findables, PT's Coffee and The Tipsy Carrot — were.

"It was heart-wrenching," Heather Graves said of the decision to shutter The Tipsy Carrot. "It's definitely a passion, dream for me to have healthy eating in Topeka."

Graves co-owned the cafe — previously located in Topeka's NOTO Arts and Entertainment District and known for its coffee, juices, smoothie bowls and house-made ice cream — with her fiancé and two other business partners.

According to Graves, she and her business partners decided to close after things got "pretty crazy" early in the pandemic.

"We were just a newer restaurant," Graves said. "Any new restaurant is going to be extremely struggling right now. If you take into consideration the first five years of a business, not only are they paying payroll and rent and utilities and buying products, but they're also paying on the business loan to get started.

"It's just harder those first few years in general. Add a pandemic to it, and it's a lot."

According to numbers provided by the Kansas Secretary of State's office, 5,110 businesses filed formal dissolutions with the office last year. That number was up slightly, though not significantly, from 2018 and 2019 — which saw 4,904 and 4,988 dissolutions, respectively.

Katie Koupal, deputy assistant secretary of state for communications and policy, said business filings don't indicate whether an entity is a small business or larger company, and she noted businesses that close aren't required to file dissolutions with the secretary of state, suggesting some businesses may have shut down without formally acknowledging such closures.

According to Graves, she and her business partners went back and forth about closing as they considered the best path forward.

"As things kept going on, it just became really apparent what we were going to have to do," she said.

But because Graves also owns the building in which The Tipsy Carrot was located, the cafe's closure left her scrambling to come up with a way to fill the vacant storefront.

"Once it was confirmed that was going to close, I had to figure out something," she said. "We even talked about selling the building."

Within a few weeks, Graves and her fiancé had decided to open Onyx Wellness Cafe in the same spot. The new cafe was aptly named for Onyx Salon and Wellness Spa, which Graves also owns and which sits next door.

Onyx Wellness Cafe, which primarily serves coffees and juices, became somewhat of a reception area for the salon.

"We kind of decided to connect the two buildings and expand the spa into the back half of The Tipsy Carrot," Graves said.

The expansion allowed Graves to continue offering through the cafe the health foods she enjoys, while also giving her staff the opportunity to work in a larger space during the pandemic with the appropriate social distancing guidelines in place.

"I could just cry I'm so grateful," Graves said. "The community has really shown up to support us."

Onyx Wellness Cafe isn't the only new small business to open in Topeka this past year.

Thin and Crisp Gourmet Pizza, for instance, opened a new restaurant in the former location of NOTO Burrito. Axe & Ale, Los Mandiles Rojos and Top City Nutrition all popped up downtown in 2020. Elsewhere in the capital city, Ghost Peppers, Jong's Thai Kitchen, Lilly Grace boutique, El Mexicali, Milk & Honey Coffee Co. and Vuelve a la Vida Mexican Restaurant opened their doors.

According to Koupal, 26,484 entities across the state filed as new businesses in 2020 — compared to 23,370 in 2018 and 23,857 in 2019. Again, she noted, new business filings don't indicate whether an entity is a small business.

According to Alison Beebe, a full-time nurse who is an avid supporter of local business and manager of the "Topcityflavorista Local Eats & Events!" Facebook page, supporting local businesses is "always about the people."

"It's a supporting the community issue," Beebe said. "I know if I support a local business, maybe that helps pay (the business owner's) mortgage or helps send their kid to ballet."

She argues consumers are in control of whether small businesses thrive — and in 2020, she added, more people seemed to acknowledge that fact.

"I do think that people are really waking up to that, thankfully," Beebe said. "Hopefully, more people will, because it's crucial to our small businesses. ... If we don't support them now, they won't be here in the new year."