Delaware small companies planning reopenings: ‘We’re gritty, we’re powerful’ | The Newest from WDEL Information

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There remains plenty of questions when it comes to Delaware starting the reopening process for its economy, but Delaware’s small businesses are on their way to plotting how they plan to restart.

Over 100 southern New Castle County and Smyrna businesses took part in the second of a series of Small Business Recovery Town Hall virtual meetings Tuesday night.

Tracking coronavirus

WDEL’s got you covered: For all of WDEL’s latest novel coronavirus COVID-19 coverage, including a list of symptoms and important numbers, locations for confirmed cases, and stories relating to the pandemic, visit WDEL.com/news/coronavirus.

The video conference was chaired by Kurt Foreman of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, Damian DeStefano of the Delaware Division of Small Business, and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long.

One of the business owner’s concerns came from Frank Horton, whose Back Creek Golf Course has remained open during the pandemic, but has been hindered by having to enforce Delaware’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, who would rather golf on his course.

“If we could get some type of a public declaration as to businesses not being law enforcement, I think that would be helpful. I think we could use a resource, either a phone number or someone we could contact besides local law enforcement, if someone isn’t following these guidelines.”

DeStefano sounded open to the suggestion, without giving specifics on how it might work.

“What we don’t what to have happen is for you guys to reopen and then have a bunch of people saying: ‘my business wasn’t doing this; my business wasn’t doing that.’ I agree, it needs to be something you get a lot of support for, as we do this, so you’re not having to play police officer in your place of business,” said DeStefano.

Tracking coronavirus

WDEL’s got you covered: For all of WDEL’s latest novel coronavirus COVID-19 coverage, including a list of symptoms and important numbers, locations for confirmed cases, and stories relating to the pandemic, visit WDEL.com/news/coronavirus.

Restaurant owners were curious how they should attack the new social distancing guidelines that would be in effect in Phases 1 and 2 of Delaware’s reopening plan, Cafe New Castle’s Michele Ahwash suggested training sessions.

“We’re going to have to re-train everyone on how to serve a customer, but I would be the first to do that before getting my staff infected or my customers infected. Can you guys come in and do some practice tests on how about going about doing this?”

Some businesses said they were using the time to develop technology, like Devon Mitchell from Anytime Fitness.

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“We’re working on implementing our new app, which allows our members the opportunities to schedule. One of the things we wanted to do in that first phase is go through the pilot of that schedule.” 

While most of the business owners sounded ready to get back to the grind, some said they were truly working against the clock.

Meghan Masten of Meg’s Electric Beach Tanning in Dover said the pandemic struck right in the heart of their mid-to-late spring, which is their busiest time of year.

“Our tanning season is going to come to an end pretty soon. Our business is a $150,000 a year season, and 90% of our money is made in those two months, and if we don’t open soon, we’re not going to be able to open at all.”

Masten also pushed for tanning to be moved into the earliest phase of the recovery, saying her business was already following the Phase 1 guidelines the week before non-essential businesses were closed.

“We had the social distancing with the masks. We blocked off our lobby; we were actually calling people in via texts when beds were available.”

Bruce Rushton of the The Growth Coach in Middletown said many businesses are going to need help to break the perception that going in public won’t be safe with COVID-19 still likely to be around in some capacity.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think just by opening up, our revenues will go back to where it was, it’s probably not. There are people who are out there who are scared, not everybody, but people who are scared right now to be around other people. Maybe we need to provide, through the state, a social media campaign.”

While not necessarily the final product, Peter Rudloff of Pete’s Garage and Blue Collar Technologies in Bear did offer his small business colleagues something of a pep talk.

“Small business is the backbone of America. We’re gritty, we’re tough. We’re going to survive through this and find a way to endeavor through and be successful on the other end.”

Here’s the schedule of remaining town halls:

  • Thursday, April 30 – 10:00 a.m. – Western Sussex
  • Thursday, April 30 – 6:00 p.m. – Newark Area
  • Monday, May 4 – 2:00 p.m. – Kent County
  • Tuesday, May 5 – 6:00 p.m. – Wilmington Area 
  • Wednesday, May 6 – 6:00 p.m. – Northern New Castle County

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