Businesses Adapt: Creative Approaches During COVID
Photo: Beth and Rob Downes photographed by Allie Dearie.
Backyard nuptials instead of a big wedding bash means you do things a little differently—like hop on paddleboards after your vows. With elopements one of her specialties, photographer Allie Dearie was ready to join couples as they tie the knot now in small ceremonies, with the family and friends celebration rescheduled for a later date.
Dearie, a member of the Chamber’s Young Professionals, regularly takes couples from engagement to the big day. This additional photo shoot just adds another opportunity to develop her client relationship. “Getting to document that really intimate elopement is bringing us even closer,” she said. It is also helping her meet client needs during a difficult time in her industry.
Weddings are just one more way daily lives and major life events are shifting during the coronavirus, and businesses are shifting in a million ways to adapt. At the core of the successful approaches is defining and meeting customer needs. Oh yeah, and a LOT of flexibility.
A queen of flexibility, Shannon Walker of Crowned Fit in Groton redesigned her business overnight when gyms were closed by the state. With a deeply personal commitment to helping clients be physically and mentally fit, Walker started online classes the next day in a Facebook group.
“This has really been the glue to hold us all together,” said Walker. “It’s our mission to do all we can to not let anyone fall off the wagon.” In addition to daily workouts, members engage with each other with Zoom check ins and through personal development and nutrition seminars with the club’s licensed therapist and nutritionist.
Crowned Fit reports retaining 90% of clients, with only 15% of those taking up the offer to pause membership. They just started outdoor classes last week. With state limits of just 5 people gathering, the fitness studio is meeting needs of current clients before they open membership again.
Walker maintains a strong presence on social media, offering free weekly workouts on their public page, running contests, and sharing news regularly. She practices what she preaches to her clients: consistency and perseverance, even when it’s hard.
Mystic Luxury Cinemas have adopted creative approaches when their primary business was shutdown this spring. Movie rentals and popcorn sales (with REAL butter) focus on what they can do in the new environment. Lorraine McBride, Director of Sales and Marketing, shared that patrons drove the changes: “My inspiration comes from the loyal customers. They are very supportive.”
On Memorial Day Weekend, they hosted three nights of drive-in movies benefiting Mystic Aquarium. Looping in area restaurants, the event sought to make the best of people having a night out in a new way.
On the positive side, the shutdown coincided with some planned renovations. Audiences will enjoy heated seats when Mystic Luxury Cinema reopens.
Thinking Outside the Box
Caterers Gourmet Galley and Matthew’s Catering are putting their culinary teams to work preparing lovely take home dinners. The Meadows offers grab and go dinners. A Thyme to Cook has contests to win the weekly bundle of goodies!
Daddy Jack’s Restaurant has long-standing YouTube channels, Cooking with the Blues and Chaplin’s Classics, that keep diners hungry while the restaurant offers takeout.
Garde Arts Center opened a virtual cinema for at-home streaming of fascinating films. Rental revenues help sustain the Garde!
Arrow Paper Party Rental shifts party rentals to everything restaurants need for outdoor dining setups, from tents to tables and chairs.
Whaling City Mazda has a buy-from-home program that lets buyers choose a vehicle, value their trade, personalize payments, and apply for financing, leading to the home delivery of a new vehicle.
Stonington Community Center – COMO takes home shopping to the thrift shop with Facebook live events where viewers purchase donated items with a SOLD comment.
Lake of Isles Golf is open for a day on the links, followed by reasonably priced family meals to take home—a day that makes everyone happy!
Beer’d pivoted from two active taprooms to robust curbside retail as well as working with package stores, grocery stores, and adding home delivery. Some of the provisions the governor passed to help small businesses during COVID would be beneficial for business going forward.
Owners Precious Putnam and Aaren Simoncini discovered a wealth of community support as they navigate this difficult time. “Giving back to the community has always given me a lot of joy, and I have come to realize that the community does care about us more than we ever could have imagined. While there have been many dark days, they have been overpowered by the moments where I personally felt a sense of being cared about,” said Putnam.
For others, responding to the COVID crisis has meant providing new services that fellow businesses need. Pat Munger Construction created a portfolio of affordable ways for small businesses to meet state guidelines. From Plexi-Glass partitions to social distancing boundaries, they apply 50 years of meeting customers’ need to work on value-driven construction solutions. Fully staffed, Pat Munger Construction is helping companies get back to work by taking on projects of any size.
“In these current, unprecedented times we recognize the additional need for businesses to adapt their workspaces quickly and seamlessly to satisfy safety and health requirements,” shared Business Development Manager Karen DelVecchio. For those unable to open, they can focus on undertaking c construction projects safely while businesses remain closed, and Pat Munger will offer individual assessments and solution-based options to meet changing needs.
The Chamber compiled a list of members ready with services related to COVID-19 and reopening requirements. Visit ChamberECT.com/Reopening for PPE Suppliers, construction, HVAC, rentals, signage, and cleaning services and supplies.
The Chamber looks for stories from our members, so share your pivot, new services, or storied history with us by contacting Colleen Gresh, firstname.lastname@example.org.