CHARLOTTE, N.C. —When customers walk into Tastebuds, they'll find more than 200 flavors of popcorn to choose from.

They'll also find the owner Jay Pithwa filling orders, cashing out customers and refilling popcorn bins.

Pithwa wears many hats as the owner of tastebuds popcorn, but it isn't by choice.

"If I'm not able to get here, then the store would not be open. There's no other person in the morning who could cover me. So we would be stuck," Pithwa said.

He said the pandemic posed its own set of challenges. Now, staff shortages has Pithwa worried about the future of his business.

"Everywhere I look, there's a hiring sign so I know that there are jobs available but how it is that the numbers continue to climb? It's because you make more money sitting at home," Pithwa said.

Pithwa, like many business owners, points to unemployment, bonuses and stimulus checks as the reason he can't find employees.

According to Charlotte Works, the unemployment rate has decreased, and so has the number of people working.

The job training agency said that's because approximately 10,000 people left the labor force since the start of the pandemic.

While some economists attribute this to child care needs, others say fear of COVID-19 might be keeping people from working.

Regardless of the reason, Pithwa said Tastebuds needs some relief as business picks up.

"We've been open seven days a week since November 29, 2011. I would hate to have to close our front doors after being open for 10 years just because we can't find staff," he said.