The day – Local businesses face challenges with recent wave of COVID-19

Many local businesses are facing challenges with the recent wave of COVID-19. Some juggle schedules or are forced to close temporarily as staff members fall ill, and see sales decline as more customers stay home because they’re sick or are concerned about the coronavirus that’s causing disease.

Others say they continue to stay busy despite the challenges.

Kyla Adams, owner of Home Salon and Spa in Groton, said it was getting harder and harder for small businesses every day. Customers “delay” their visits until the number of cases decreases, and on average, four to eight customers cancel each day due to illness, she said. After Christmas, four staff members were released at the same time with COVID-19.

“Staffing issues continue to impact the number of hours we can be open for business,” Adams said. The company is demanding that all staff be vaccinated and also began requiring masks for all staff in early December, ahead of the city’s mandate.

Adams said last year the company received government assistance with Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, loans. She said these loans are now gone, but not the economic impact.

Some business owners have said they wait for sales to resume once COVID-19 cases decline.

Owner Paula Peltier said A Cut Above Hair Design in Waterford and That Look Salon in East Lyme started receiving more cancellations just before Christmas, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in the community.

She said she appreciated that customers were very respectful and didn’t come to the salons when they might be sick. But when clients get sick, the cancellations weigh on stylists who work on commission. Each salon records an average of between five and eight cancellations per day.

When staff members sometimes have to go out, for example when their child has been exposed to COVID-19, then management must reorganize everyone’s schedule and employees mobilize to replace their colleagues, he said. she declared.

“It’s a little tough sometimes, but we try to do our best,” Peltier said. “We are keeping the living room as secure as possible. Everyone is masked. We ask everyone who has just been masked.”

“We are taking all possible precautions to ensure their safety and security,” she added.

Uncle D’s Blazin ‘BBQ in Norwich posted on Facebook on December 28 that it was closing temporarily and would reopen on January 7. Owner Angelina Gardner said the local small business, which reopened on Friday, decided to shut down temporarily the week before because so many employees were sick and also to avoid a cycle in which people would come to work and find out later that ‘they were sick, exposing others to the virus.

“It’s been very difficult to have the right number of people to work, and then we always have the supply chain issues that come up,” Gardner added. Sometimes the restaurant can’t get cups, she said. Sometimes he can’t find any bags. Other times, meat is scarce.

“The only thing we’ve learned to do is pivot,” she said. For example, the company began using four different delivery companies, rather than one, during the pandemic to try to offset sales. She also said customers have been very understanding and have purchased gift cards to help them with future sales.

Rhonda Dempsey, co-owner of Sneekers Cafe in Groton, said the restaurant and concert hall faced similar challenges, and posted on Facebook on Jan. 2 that it was due to close temporarily that day at 5 p.m. in due to personnel problems.

She said the Sneekers Cafe had started booking live music again and was excited about a good month of music planned for January. But with the rise in COVID-19 cases, many people are afraid to go out, and two groups have canceled. She said many restaurants are in the same situation.

“New Years Eve was probably the calmest eve we’ve had in 38 years,” she said. She added that Sneekers Cafe has a loyal following and is doing well, but business is down, which was expected as soon as cases started to rise.

Catherine Shafer, owner of Tailored To You at Mystic, said people haven’t been going out so much recently and her store is very quiet. She said January is generally a calm month, but not so calm. She has a box outside her business so people can drop off and pick up items if they don’t want to enter the store.

But she noted that she was starting to receive calls for wedding dress changes for weddings taking place in May or later, and she believes her business will pick up when COVID-19 cases start to decline.

Kathryn Salvio, coordinator of the Waterhouse Salon in New London, said the company had recently had around eight to 10 cancellations, including people waiting for COVID-19 test results which are taking longer to arrive.

But she said the salon, which merged with the Salon de Nancy staff, has remained very busy. She said staff members were very careful with COVID-19 protocols, from sterilizing tools to wearing masks. “We don’t let people go through the door without masks,” she said.

Harrison Faison, owner of Platinum Cuts barbershop in Norwich, said when his barber shop first reopened, business picked up. But with the recent wave of COVID-19, people are worried and are staying at home.

He said he continues to follow all guidelines, including mask wear, social distancing and disinfection. When he goes out to places like the store or the casino, he says he sees people who do not have masks and who are not 6 feet apart. He said he wears a mask all the time, is fully immunized and has received a booster, and he talks to his clients about it all the time. “As an individual that’s all I can really do,” he said.

Some companies take advantage of this time of year to make upgrades, as they have done in previous years.

The Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme announced on Facebook that it would be closed for “staff + building refreshment” between January 3 and 12, and would reopen at 4 p.m. on January 13. It still accepts shipping orders online during this time.

Operations manager Ali Formica Coleman said the fish market closes every year after Christmas, but this year it has come at a particularly good time to give staff a break from their sanity and make sure everything the world is fully tested before reopening.

She said the recent outbreak of the pandemic had many impacts, including on the supply chain and the lives of staff members, making gatherings difficult to manage during the holidays and putting people on high alert, cold and flu season contributing to stress and anxiety.

“You kind of have to roll with the punches and keep everyone as safe as possible,” she said.

Cheryl Robdau of Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream said the store closed on January 2 for a few weeks to upgrade with new equipment. The business typically closes and refreshes the store around this time of year, but this year the store bought a new ice cream maker. The store had taken supply chain issues into account and ordered the machine last summer for an expected arrival this month, she said.

Overall, she said the store hadn’t seen anything different in business over the holiday season: “Mystic seemed as busy as ever,” she said.

Some stores are finding that business is holding up.

Owner Lisa Lord said the Twist Yarn Shoppe in Niantic has been busier lately as more and more people stay home and look for projects to do, and many are learning to knit and crochet. Winter is generally a busier season for the store.

But the pandemic overall has been very difficult, she said, as it has had to change so much, including creating a website, installing protective barriers near the registry and adding more disinfectant dispensers. , and limiting knitting lessons to smaller groups when the store is closed.

Mike Shapiro, Connecticut vice president of operations for Planet Fitness, said in a statement that the gym chain locations use protocols such as “contactless check-in, a crowd counter that allows members to check the club capacity in real time, increased disinfection of equipment and cleaning stations for members’ use. He said that Planet Fitness recently achieved the WELL ranking for health and safety from the WELL International. Building Institute.

“We will continue to follow state and local mandates regarding mask, capacity and social distancing policies for gyms and fitness centers,” he added. “We encourage our members to take the necessary precautions for their peace of mind to continue their fitness programs safely and comfortably.”

Deborah Kollmeyer from Adore to Mystic, which sells gifts, furniture and clothing globally, said it was unclear whether the rise in COVID-19 was affecting sales because January through March are typically months slow at Mystic and the store has abbreviated hours this time of year. – from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Sunday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

She said Adore was very lucky as no employee had caught COVID-19. She added that customers wear their masks very well – and she thinks people aren’t as afraid of wearing masks in the winter, because it keeps their faces warm.

“I hope we are all done with COVID by the spring,” she said, “and life can return to its normal course”.

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