How area business adjusted during the pandemic
COVID-19 threw a wrench into everyone’s lives, but the impact on small business was devasting
Or was it? Were there businesses that flourished? Or, maybe, with the new mandates businesses had to do to survive, maybe they’ve seen greater results than expected.
To get perspective from different fields of industry, the Messenger sent out questionnaires on that topic. Responses came from Robyn Dochterman from St. Croix Chocolate, Bjorn Hagstrom from Whatmoves Design, LLC, Gwen Roden from Marine General Store and Lynne Moratzka from Gammelgarden.
Changes businesses had to make
Dochterman said it forced them to rethink nearly everything.
“COVID influenced how we actually designed our building entrance,” she said. “We decided it would be safer to have separate entrance and exit doors. And we switched to a new register system that customers could use touchlessly. Obviously, we’re keeping both of those changes.”
After Dochterman feared closure, events started changing.
“But instead, we got creative,” she said. “We did an online auction and people were wonderful in supporting us through that. Customers were very patient about waiting in line so too many people weren’t in the shop at once.
“During COVID, I adopted a new personal motto: ‘Adapt and go.’” Meaning, roll with the changes and keep moving. I think we all probably did this, whether consciously or unconsciously, but planning plays such a big role in business that it required a lot of effort to let go of some things.”
Hagstrom said the health aspect became an issue.
“While I was already working remote as a freelancer, I was primarily using a ‘coworking’ space to work before the pandemic,” he said. “I loved the community and social aspects of the coworking space, but as the COVID situation became more serious, I opted to rent a private office in Marine to cut out that potential risk.”
Gammelgarden’s changes also revolved around safety.
“Because we had to cancel all programs and classes, we needed to keep the museum in front of people and not forgotten,” Moratzka explained. “We created weekly free craft bags for children that could be picked up in the Little Free Library without any personal interaction. This was quite successful and will continue this year.”
Roden said Marine General Store put more of an emphasis on curbside delivery and the results paid off.
“Although we have always provided delivery to home-bound customers, our curbside delivery increased to about 25% of our sales,” she added.
Coming out in droves
“People (and their businesses) are amazingly adaptable,” Hagstrom said. “It was inspiring to see how creative many businesses got to make it through. And how much communities stepped up and supported their local businesses.”
Dochterman said St. Croix Chocolate’s customers came out and supported the business.
“By the time that Christmas rolled around, St. Croix Chocolate Company benefited from customers’ shift in buying habits. We prepared for twice the online business we’d done before, but it was more like six times. Which left us scrambling again, but at least in a good way.”