GOSHEN - Creativity is the watchword for business owners trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Small businesses have been hard-hit by the shutdown. Stay-at-home orders have made it difficult for businesses to operate - even for those designated as essential, such as food stores and liquor stores. Operations are not business as usual.
Goshen, where the downtown was hit hard a few years back when core county offices relocated during the closure, demolition and rebuilding of the Government Center, is a microcosm of how businesses are adapting.
Goshen Plaza Liquors, for example, is offering more than walk-in business.
“We’re open, we deliver, we do curbside,” said owner Jamie Blanchette.
Blanchette said his business had fallen off for months after he had to move from Goshen Plaza, where the stores were demolished to make way for a new plaza that’s supposed to feature the village’s first supermarket in years. He’s in a new spot on Green Street.
Then the shutdown came, and liquor stores were designated as essential.
“Business took off. I mean like crazy,” he said.
Blanchette started offering delivery, figuring he’d get maybe 10 requests a week from people who were elderly or had medical conditions that made them vulnerable to COVID-19.
The appeal was broader: At one point, he had 25 deliveries in a week.
Keeping business ’moving’
The shutdown shuttered gyms, but Cindy Waltzer, who owns the Pedal Goshen personal training and spin studio, came up with the idea of virtual classes. She allowed members to take home the spin bicycles, and she started livestreaming spin classes on Instagram at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. She has also made recorded classes available.
“I needed to think of something to keep everybody still motivated and working out,” Waltzer said. “It’s working really well. They love it.”
"They’re already asking me if they can buy the bike instead of renting it, so I’m going to continue the virtual classes even when the studio opens up,“ Waltzer said.
The classes have brought her Instagram follows and inquiries from people who didn’t know she taught classes, and who may join the studio when it reopens, she said.
“She really embraced the virtual classes,” said Barbara Martinez, executive director of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce. “Not only did she adjust, she’s also changing the way she does business.”
Adapt and change
Waltzer knows resilience. A breast cancer survivor, she also fundraises for and makes chemo “comfort” bags for others who are undergoing treatment for cancer. She delivers the bags to local hospitals, and has them available at the studio on St. John Street in Goshen.
Martinez and the Chamber have also adapted: The Chamber newsletter highlights open businesses and virtual events, including a new virtual coffee chat on Monday mornings and virtual happy hours on Friday evenings using Facebook Live.
A lot of businesses are finding new ways to do business. The Soons Orchards Farm Market Store is offering a full range of produce, meats and cheeses, cider and cider donuts, the pies and other baked goods they’ve always sold, and other items by popular demand, said Sharon Soons.
The store is open daily for curbside pickup, and opens from 8-9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday for elderly, immune-compromised and mobility-impaired customers. Soons said she’s updating the website’s (soonsorchards.com) Frequently Asked Questions page daily with what’s available.
Soons said she’s paying attention to what customers ask for, and trying to get it in stock, even when it’s something they wouldn’t typically carry. The market has staples including all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, chicken broth and butter, items that have been in short supply. The market just got coffee, she said.
“Our customers are coming in or calling or doing the online orders,” Soons said. “Now we’re getting a lot of new customers who don’t want to go to the grocery store.”
Soons and Blanchette hope their crisis adaptations have earned them long-term customers.
“I’m just hoping to hold on to some of the business,” Blanchette said. “That people will see us as just as convenient as we’ve ever been.”