Reopening is requiring cautionary steps for businesses

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Reopening is requiring cautionary steps for businesses

June 22, 2020 - 19:46

Staying in business during a down economy is a challenge. As the state follows Restore Illinois guidelines, Homewood and Flossmoor businesses are taking steps to reopen, albeit on a limited basis. 

In early June, the Chronicle asked local business owners to reply to a brief survey about how their business has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what customers should expect moving forward. We’ve compiled some of their answers.

How did the state’s stay-at-home order from March 17 through May 29 affect your business?
This was especially tough on social-based businesses, as reflected by the comments of Greg Loudon, owner of Bottle and Bottega in Homewood.

“Our business celebrates people being social so the closings and the restrictions have eliminated doing what we do best — gather people together to have some creative fun and a glass of wine or two,” Loudon said.

Since they couldn’t see customers in person, business owners reported connecting online and through curbside pickups.

Liz Smith, owner of Serendipity Yoga and Wellness in Homewood, said her studio began offering online classes. 

Kyla Kethcart, left, and Ananda Bacon chat over lunch at Redbird Cafe's outdoor seating area on June 17. Outdoor dining is allowed again under phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan. Only carry-out service at restaurants had been available from March 17 until May 29 to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

At UpsaDaisy Boutique in Homewood, owner Suzy Moore said they relied on phone orders and even took orders via social media, which they delivered or customers picked up curbside.

“We were grateful to the community for making the shift with us to a more online presence and their support during this uncertain time,” Moore said.

Wiley’s Grill at Coyote Run Golf Course in Flossmoor relied on its online presence for ordering, as well, said general manager Sheri Klein. Regardless, the shut-down significantly reduced the restaurant’s income.

“Besides being closed, the lost revenue of St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter cannot be recovered. Those three days alone make a huge impact on the bottom line,” Klein said.

Despite offering curbside pickup of its unique items, revenue at Art 4 Soul in Homewood was down 75 percent, said owner Jen Sesto.

Some businesses closed down for a while, including Conservatory Vintage and Vinyl in Flossmoor, Bottle and Bottega, and Thomas’ Photographic in Homewood.

Business owners did create some innovations to accommodate the new way of doing business. UpsaDaisy owner Moore said she ramped up shipping and created printable gift cards customers could download.

Kim Nolen, owner of Redbird Cafe in Homewood said the restaurant started creating a menu of family meals that hungry customers could pick up or have delivered by bicycle.

Dunning’s Market in Flossmoor is also serving up family meals for delivery. Though Dunning’s also offers packaged goods for sale, owner Maureen Mader said they are not offering in-store shopping right now. Despite a lack of individual sandwich orders, Mader said customers continue to request favorite items.

“They do still really, really, really want chicken salad!” Mader said.

What changes has your business made to move into phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan?
Business owners are adapting their daily work to accommodate regulations attached to the state’s reopening plan.

Angela Thomas, owner of Thomas’ Photographic, said they must limit how many customers enter their shop, and photo shoots will be conducted differently.

“Most sessions need to be outdoors now instead of in the studio,” Thomas said.

Yogis also cannot meet indoors, said Smith, but Serendipity Yoga and Wellness will continue to offer online classes, and has added outdoor classes.

Guests can now dine outdoors at Wiley’s Grill, though space is limited due to distancing requirements. Klein said curbside pickup orders have become essential to the restaurant’s survival, and it will soon release an online menu and payment options.

Restrictions and lost revenue mean some retail stores will reopen with limited hours, including UpsaDaisy Boutique and Art 4 Soul.

“We will be coming back slowly,” said Art 4 Soul owner Sesto. “Hours (are) shortened to offset payroll and utility costs until consumer confidence is regained and state restrictions loosen.”

At Bottle and Bottega, Loudon is taking a similarly cautious approach. During Phase 3, business will be limited to private parties.

“We’ll eventually open for public parties once we see how the first phase of openings go,” Loudon said. “If the numbers improve, we’ll open further. If they don’t, we will most likely have to stick with private parties, or perhaps even close again.”

What do you want customers to know about safely doing business with you moving forward?

  • “Guest safety and comfort is our top priority.  We will continue to follow all issued guidelines.” Sheri Klein, Wiley’s Grill
  • “Masks and gloves required to shop in store. We provide masks, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.” Chogie Fields, Conservatory Vintage and Vinyl
  • “We are ready and are taking the necessary precautions to keep our customers and employees safe.” Jen Sesto, Art 4 Soul
  • “Our main concern is your welfare and enjoyment and we’ve taken every precaution to ensure both.” Greg Loudon, Bottle and Bottega
  • “We are complying with the state guidelines for Phase 3 opening by allowing only 5 customers in at a time and requiring masks.” Suzy Moore, UpsaDaisy Boutique
  • “Your health is important. We will continue to do everything we can to provide a safe space for your yoga practice.” Liz Smith, Serendipity Yoga and Wellness
  • “We have instituted increased sanitation measures and will continue to operate with the health and safety of staff and community in mind.” Kim Nolen, Redbird Cafe.