Otis Gillespie, a salsa dance instructor for the MacKinnon Dance Academy in Oxnard, uses a scissor lift to remove the studio’s sign on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, as it prepare to close after more than four decades due to loss of revenue from COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo: ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR)
Joy MacKinnon opened up a post on her Facebook page and started to type.
The words didn’t come easily. She didn’t want the message to be too wordy or a sob story or “woe is me” at all.
Mostly, she just kept thinking: “Oh my gosh, I really have to say this now.”
In March, the coronavirus pandemic hit California and soon public health officials ordered closures and people to stay safe at home. The 45-year-old MacKinnon Dance Academy canceled its classes and had to close its doors, like thousands of other local businesses.
MacKinnon expected to weather the closure, but she also figured it would be a matter of weeks.
After half a year without income, she no longer could keep paying rent. A Go Fund Me set up by former dancers and teachers raised thousands and had helped for a month or so, but she didn’t want to ask people to keep contributing when so many were out of work themselves.
The 85-year-old had taken money from her retirement funds to cover costs for months, but that wasn’t sustainable.
By September, she knew it was time to make the hard decision to close for good. She just had to find a way to tell everyone else.
She tried phone calls first, but after about the 10th call and the 10th time of breaking down in tears, she gave up. So on Sept. 19, she sat down in her too quiet studio and started to type.
“MacKinnon Dance Academy is closing due to the Pandemic. You will all be missed beyond words. My deepest and most sincere Thank You for your many years of loyalty, love, family, and memories. I hope you always dance.”
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Worst ‘still ahead of us’
MacKinnon knows she is not the only one to lose a business to the pandemic or a job. She’s quick to say she feels grateful that she owns a home, knowing others might face losing one.
But she wants people to know that this isn’t a retirement. It was forced.
Anyone else in her 80s might face a pandemic like this one, shut down and not look back, said Anna Reed Sanchez, a former student and teacher. But not the Miss Joy she says helped her, a shy kid, become a performer and teacher.
She fought for months, she said.
“It is incredibly difficult still to get a real idea about the scale and the number of businesses that are closing or have closed,” said Bruce Stenslie, president of the Economic Development Collaborative.
“We know that there are a lot