WESTFIELD, NJ — The Town Bookstore’s owner, Anne Laird, has been at the shop for 13 years.
“We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs and worries in all that time,” Laird said between taking phone orders. “Just never in a million years would I have put a pandemic on the list.”
Laird is not the only one. She is among Westfield business owners who are finding ways to adapt their businesses to the changes that coronavirus has brought to New Jersey.
With her employees unable to come to the store due to social distancing needs, she has found herself busy fulfilling orders as the shop remains open, albeit without in-store shopping.
“I’m very lucky in that I’m not trying to make a living doing this,” Laird said. “Unlike the restaurants, the Town Bookstore has not been extremely profitable since it started in 1934. It’s more a labor of love type of situation.”
Many business owners are working at full steam, taking relationships cultivated during in-person customer interactions into the digital sphere.
Ahrre Maros, owner and founder of Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery, said he is working to move his customer base to online ordering via a digital application he adopted several years ago.
“It’s been difficult to get people to convert over to this way of ordering coffee,” said Maros, who has locations in Westfield and Summit. “Slowly but surely, however, people are using this app.”
His shop is among those offering curbside pickup and delivery only. Even if people didn’t know about the app when they attempt to walk into the store, they soon will.
“The sign is on the door. Take out your smartphone … wait in your car we’ll bring it to you,” he said. Maros said he is also offering delivery. Coffee-lovers can order from his website.
While some businesses owners find themselves busier amid transitions due to COVID-19, that does not necessarily mean they’re benefiting financially.
“It will be tough for some of these businesses to exist after the crisis is over,” said Bob Zuckerman, executive director of Downtown Westfield Corp., which runs the town’s special improvement district, and recently rolled out a series of promotions detailing ways people can shop virtually in the downtown. “We want to give every business the greatest opportunity to weather the storm and get through this.”
The DWC is also anticipated to host a virtual town hall on the topic of loans, relief packages and other assistance for business weathering the COVID-19 crisis. The town hall to be held on Zoom at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 9. All Westfield businesses are invited to participate. Registration is required. Click here to learn more.
Across New Jersey, 362,000 people filed for unemployment in the past two weeks, state officials said Saturday. But some businesses are hiring. The delivery service Delivery Now in Scotch Plains has increased its staff as a result of COVID-19.
Last week, Delivery Now owner Paul Birrell, a Westfield resident, said that he had boosted his workforce by 30% in recent days during a time many people are getting laid off. “It feels good to provide them with that,” Birrell said.
The new staff helps Delivery Now to fulfill the increase in extra deliveries it is taking on while it copes with the loss of larger clients it typically would be providing corporate lunches to, he said.
“There’s more demand for delivery right now,” Birrel said. “And we’re just trying to make sure that we can do it.”
Delivery Now has also started a campaign called “Rally Around Local” during which it pays the delivery fee for deliveries made from certain local restaurants, he said.
Each day, Delivery Now rallies around one restaurant in the geographic area it serves including Westfield, Cranford, Garwood, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and surrounding towns, Birrell said. In Westfield, Qdoba Mexican Grill, The Brick Oven Westfield and Hershey's Subs and Deli are among the participating restaurants.
The intent, he said, is to offset some losses restaurants have seen as a result of the closures for dine-in seating during the pandemic. With word of the campaign getting out, Birrell said, restaurants have been reaching out to join up with the service.
“The Rally Around Local campaign has been kind of viral for us,” he said. “And now we have restaurants contacting us because of it.”
Email Matt Kadosh at email@example.com | Twitter: @MattKadosh
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