October 18, 2021

Some merchants reopen smoothly, but not everyone

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

BRU 64 has coffee and Briana Petracca orders a cup Wednesday from Lauren Hartquist on its first day open after two months of a pandemic-inspired shutdown. In doing so, the chairs have been removed, plexiglas shields are in place and lines have been cordoned off out to the street.

It’s been a week since some businesses could begin reopening. Some have been able to transition smoothly; others have had to adjust to a new normal and major economic upheaval.

“We were doing the spring cleanups during that time,” said Pat Mones, co-owner of Valley View Gardens in Cortlandville. “Right around the time we were ending the spring cleanups, the landscaping started, so we kind of made a smooth transition.”

Landscaping was one of several industries allowed to open May 15 during Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plans. Other industries included construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting and retail that is limited to in-store pickup or drop off.

“I wish it was all happening sooner, but it’s important that as business open they continue to follow guidance on worker and customer safety,” said Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.

At BRU 64 in downtown Cortland opened earlier this week, the chairs had been removed. Two cordoned lines were created out the cafe and down the hall of Marketplace Mall, with 6-foot distancing markers one for customers who called in orders, and one for walk-up orders. Business was lighter than normal, but it was just its first day, and customers were, in fact, coming in.

Mones said while his company was doing spring cleanup projects, employees were also working on designs and giving estimates for landscaping projects so that when they could open they could get right to work.

“We are blessed that we haven’t been interrupted as much as other people,” she said.

The company was also able to keep its nursery open because it sold fruits and vegetables. However, Mones said the gift shop remains closed, which has meant a loss in sales there. She said she’s not sure when it will be able to open.

“I don’t know what’s coming in the next phase,” she said.

Vicki Besler, co-owner of Shaw and Boehler Florist shop in Cortland, said the store opened up on Mother’s Day and has stayed open with limited hours with one employee at the shop and one delivery driver.

The shop made some money on Mother’s Day — but not as much as a normal Mother’s Day.

“We had to turn away hundreds of orders,” she said, noting they usually keep 10 to 12 people to handle orders.

She also said the florist won’t have its full normal day-to-day staff of about six people back until possibly mid-June.

Now, sales have taken a dip. “There’s no weddings right now,” she said. “We usually do SUNY Cortland and TC3’s (Tompkins Cortland Community College’s) graduation — we lost all of that. We lost tons of funeral work because of no funerals. The entry is slow because people need to eat and to pay their bills and flowers aren’t a necessity. I doubt we can recoup that.”

But Besler said she understands that people need to pay for other items like rent and food and take care of their children, so buying flowers isn’t really a necessity.

“We’ll have to adjust to the new norm and we’ll have to be patient with each other, it’s not going to be business as usual,” she said.