Bronzeville business owner said it’s taken creativity and a state grant to survive the pandemic

Trez V. Pugh III is the founder and CEO of Sip and Savor.

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Trez V. Pugh III owns four Sip & Savor coffee houses in Chicago and the south suburbs.

Trez V. Pugh III owns four Sip & Savor coffee houses in Chicago and the south suburbs.

Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

On a scale of one to 10, running a small business is, according to Trez V. Pugh III, a “15.”

That was before the pandemic, said Pugh, the founder and CEO of Sip & Savor Hospitality Group Inc. The company owns four coffee houses: two in the Bronzeville neighborhood, one in Hyde Park and a fourth in south suburban Matteson.

“You’re talking about something being tough? That’s tough squared,” said Pugh, talking inside his shop on East 47th Street on Thursday.

Pugh said he owes a lot to a state grant he received last year through Illinois’ Back to Business Program. He declined to say how much state money he received.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was on hand at Pugh’s coffee house to celebrate the release to date of about $111 million in grant money going to small businesses across the state hit hardest by the pandemic. Much of the total $250 million is targeting minority-owned businesses.

“Government has supported small-business owners, and they deserve it,” Pritzker said. “They are the lifeblood of our economy, of economic growth and jobs.”

Pugh said the state money came in handy for a variety of things, but mostly so that he didn’t have to lay off any of his 20 employees. He also said he was forced to get creative to keep his doors open through trying times.

“You’ve got to be able to pivot,” Pugh said. “I used my space for other businesses for pop-ups that don’t have brick and mortar. I rent the space out as a venue for birthdays, baby showers and wedding events.”

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