By Colleen Sparks
The Coronavirus pandemic is cutting into local business owners’ profits but they are fighting back with creative, new approaches to delivering products and services while their loyal customers help them stay afloat.
Many businesses in North Central Phoenix and around the state had to close their physical doors in order to comply with orders from Gov. Doug Ducey to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep customers and employees safe. Some that were deemed essential have been able to stay open and others have limped along, limiting the way they serve customers in order to protect their health.
The Purple Lizard, an eclectic boutique, closed its brick-and-mortar presence at 2827 N. 15th Ave., in early March and pivoted to promoting sales on its website and Facebook. Its owner Marguerite Tram frequently posts photos of clothes, accessories and face masks (made by a local artist) her store sells online. Customers who buy items can come to the parking lot to retrieve the items through curbside pickup.
“Once we closed, it’s like, now I have to regroup,” Tram said. “I lost my voice, my connection. Fortunately for me, we had started a website a little over a year ago. My husband and I do our website so we realized we just have to throw all our energy into that. I feel like we’re finally at a place where we’re breathing and saying, ‘Okay, I think we’ve got this pattern down.’”
Initially customers were not used to buying merchandise online so Tram sent them emails encouraging them to shop virtually. She has had the store for 22 years. Tram and her husband, Joe, wear masks and gloves when delivering items to customers via curbside pick-up. Marguerite said sales dropped by about 95 percent when her boutique first closed its physical doors but now it is down about 75 percent.
“To even be 25 or 30 percent where we used to be is amazing,” she said. “I see it growing every day. I think if that continues, I will meet what I was doing in the store.”
She features scarves, soaps, accessories and other items that are easy to ship without getting broken online. Tram does not have employees other than her husband, Joe, so she did not have to worry about how to pay workers.
Shaneland Arts, a store and gallery that opened in the fall, posts information about art and its gift items via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The business at 301 E. Camelback Road closed on March 31 but recently reopened.
Mike Stein, co-owner with Shane R. McCall, said social distancing is in place and in-person classes have been canceled until it is safe to resume them. Shoppers who are not comfortable coming into the store when the general public is there can call to make an appointment.
Shaneland Arts has started selling eclectic face masks and new candles to attract customers. It had to put some employees on furlough but now is able to bring most of them back to work on a regular basis, Stein said.
“We had such a good month in February, then bang, we had to close it,” he said. “For a new business that’s difficult. We’re just really excited to open again.”
Kodi’s Natural Pet Foods at 6058 N. 16th St., has seen about 50 percent fewer customers since the pandemic hit, said owner Rhonda Teel. She provides curbside pickup on request. Teel only has one employee, her grandson, who works there part-time. They both wear masks and she set up a sneeze guard near her cash register.
“I’m working on setting up online orders,” Teel said. “I can’t wait for it (pandemic) to be over.”
To learn more about Kodi’s, visit kodisnaturalpetfoods.com.
Kirk Development Company at 340 E. Caron St. has seen fewer leads on projects since the pandemic started but has stayed open throughout the crisis, said president and co-owner Tom Sertich. The company, which he and his wife, Julie, own, is a design/build full service remodeling business.
“Some of the subcontractors are shorthanded,” Sertich said. “Some of our suppliers are closed.”
The number of leads on projects has decreased by about 50 percent since the COVID-19 crisis started. However, many people still want to have their homes remodeled and the company was in the middle of some projects when the pandemic began. About four jobs that would have started were not begun because the clients did not want the work going on during the pandemic.
Kirk Development’s workers wear masks and gloves when meeting with customers and on job sites and discuss projects with clients over the phone to try to ensure safety. Earlier in the spring Kirk had offered a $200 restaurant gift card to customers that signed up for work.
To learn more about Kirk Development, visit kirkremodelers.com.
Clearskin Institute of Laser Aesthetics at 3636 N. Central Ave. reopened in mid-May after having closed due to the pandemic. It now is seeing patients and students for aesthetic training. The business provides injectables and body contouring.
“There was a big financial impact,” said Larry Helwig, co-owner with his wife, Jennifer. “We’re hoping things turn around quickly.”
Employees wear masks and customers call when they arrive for appointments. Staff members take customers’ temperatures to make sure they are healthy before their treatments start. Employees constantly wash their hands with hand sanitizer.
To learn more about Clearskin Institute of Laser Aesthetics, visit clearskininstitute.com.
Arizona Comfort Specialists Cooling & Heating at 10631 N. Cave Creek Road has seen a slowdown due to the pandemic and the fact that the weather was nice the first quarter of this year, co-owner John Miller said. However, starting in April the phone started ringing “a lot more,” Miller said. He and his wife, Kathi, are co-owners of the business, which provides installations and service repairs of heating and cooling systems, mainly to homes. Technicians wear masks and shoe covers and place mats outside the front doors of homes when visiting for work, Kathi Miller said.
“We have money in reserves,” John Miller said. “We’ve always had that habit over the years. We weathered through the recession pretty decently. This seems to be worse. Now that it got hot (outside) early things started picking up.”
To learn more, visit arizonacomfortspecialists.com.
Kelly Clark Automotive Specialists at 1201 E. Glendale Ave., saw a decrease of about 50 to 60 percent in business in April compared to the same month in 2019, said Jesse Garcia, owner and partner in the business. But when the weather heats up, business typically picks up because air-conditioning in vehicles stops working. Kelly Clark did have to release three support staff members but Garcia hopes to bring them back once the shop gets busier again.
Kelly Clark is providing 10 percent off the cost of labor for any first responders and healthcare workers who bring their vehicles there for work.
Garcia said his employees wear face masks when interacting with customers and clean door handles, the credit card machine, counters and other areas of the shop. Workers wrap steering wheels in plastic and drop customers’ keys in baggies to protect clients and employees.
To learn more about Kelly Clark Automotive Specialists, visit kellyclark.com.
At Sunland Asphalt & Construction, a national company with its corporate office at 1625 E. Northern Ave., requests for proposals and work orders have slowed down since the pandemic, said Doug DeClusin, founder and CEO. The general contractor does everything from patching parking lots to building bridges and paving city of Phoenix roads.
DeClusin is predicting a slowdown in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter of next year from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. That could lead to a decrease in about 40 percent in revenue for Sunland, he said.
DeClusin said all his employees are still working and the company is hiring. His workers wear masks and use hand sanitizer while keeping social distancing.
“We’re fortunate because we’re an essential business so we haven’t been shut down,” DeClusin said. “We have (had) a good back log coming into the year. I’ve got some of the best employees that anybody could have.”
To learn more about Sunland, visit sunlandasphalt.com.