CORONAVIRUS

Cedar Rapids company that bounced back from 2008 flood, to furlough all employees due to coronavirus

Gary Ficken in 2009 stands outside the former location of his business, Bimm Ridder Sportswear, at the former Sinclair f
Gary Ficken in 2009 stands outside the former location of his business, Bimm Ridder Sportswear, at the former Sinclair facility in southeast Cedar Rapids. The business bounced back from the 2008 flood. But Ficken said it’s different this time. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Come Monday, all 34 employees at Bimm Ridder Sportswear will be furloughed — owners included. It’s one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

March typically is the busiest month for the 32-year-old Cedar Rapids company at 817 Second Ave. SE that provides apparel and headwear for professional teams, local organizations and other customers. With sports leagues at all levels shut down, business has all but dried up.

“The thought of us not surviving after the 2008 flood was not top of mind, and it is now,” said Gary Ficken, 58, one of three owning partners. “This is exponentially worse than the flood.”

Bimm Ridder was a face of the 2008 flood recovery in Cedar Rapids. The flood destroyed much of its facility, inventory and more. But the company still had orders coming in. It outsourced production and bounced back stronger.

The past three years have been the best in the company’s history, Ficken said.

This is different. The flood affected pockets of the community and state. The virus affect everyone around the globe.

The prospects are grim, Ficken said. His staff typically processes 220 orders per week this time of year. But the company received just four orders over the past two weeks. Many others have been canceled.

Baseball games have been postponed and even when they do return, they may not allow fans to attend for a while.

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“What do you do when overnight your revenue stream stops?” Ficken asked. “You have no orders coming in. No future revenue to count on. Money that is owed, not sure how or when you will get that. There are no good choices.”

Unemployment claim numbers released Thursday showed claims skyrocketing, and employees of Bimm Ridder will soon apply also.

Bimm Ridder employees will be allowed to stay on the payroll until their paid time off expires, and they also will have health care coverage through the end of April, Ficken said.

“The role of the owners now is to try to save the company,” Ficken said. “We will be in and out of work to try to keep the company alive. Through this whole thing, the overriding goal is to save every job so people have a job to come back to.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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