Yorktown, N.Y. As the coronavirus sends a once-buoyant global economy reeling into an extended, never-before-seen virtual lockdown, businesses in Yorktown and neighboring communities are fighting through a new, sometimes unforgiving, reality.
Residents, too, face that reality when it comes to their shopping. And they’re finding that things have changed from even a week ago.
For many, their customary shops, familiar as a favorite handbag, have gone dark, padlocked for the duration or conducting only an online/telephone business. “Many have closed,” Sergio Esposito, the president of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, said this week, “and many offices other than retail have implemented ‘work from home’ practices.”
Midway through his two-year term as the Yorktown business sector’s chief advocate, Esposito takes an upbeat approach in dealing with the coronavirus’s devastating impact on his worried members.
“This will pass,” he declared. “I have said time and again to ‘stay the course’ as we anxiously await legislation that will help us through the crisis.”
Some of the shuttered shops and offices fell under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order to lock up nonessential businesses. Others simply watched their customer base shrink as self-quarantine precautions took a toll on commerce even as it safeguarded health.
Among the stores that were nominally open, it was decidedly not business as usual. “Most businesses have implemented appropriate social distancing practices, restaurants have curbside pickup and so do many other businesses,” Esposito said.
Some, he noted, “are actively going online and using social media to promote their services as well as products. Unfortunately, not every business has the types of services that are readily available or can be sold online, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all.”
Not surprisingly, the nation’s worst health crisis in a century has generated anxiety and concern for business owners and the community at large. The chamber has sought to ease that, for the general public as well as its members.
At a time of rapidly shifting regulation and, often enough, contradictory pronouncements, uncertainty has become an abiding circumstance for all, business clearly included.
The chamber has sought to allay fears with information.
“I have been very proactive with messaging through various channels as well as press conferences with the town,” Esposito said.
His outreach “has gone beyond our membership,” he said. “We believe we are here to help anyone and everyone without limitation. We have disseminated information to the public on what has become a regular basis and we have received extremely positive feedback.”
Esposito emphasizes communication and creative thinking. “I recommend that businesses forward their calls if they can, then answer the phone when people call. There is always potential and opportunity even though it may not be face to face.”
To reinforce a “shop local” theme, “the Yorktown Chamber has facilitated a Take The Pledge initiative and we have asked that citizens pledge to order takeout X number of times a week,” Esposito said. “We have asked citizens to take a photo with a printout of our pledge and certain restaurants have donated gift cards for the most creative photo.”
In the spirit of a new door opening when circumstances close some other one, Esposito suggests that businesses can find imaginative ways to attract customers, like gyms offering virtual workouts.
When it comes to adopting new approaches, Esposito, the owner of Comprehensive Computers, a computer repair and IT services company, is quick to heed his own advice: “I am conducting virtual interactive training.”
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