The business of heartbreak: How some local businesses are coping with the pandemic
By SJ MacKay
To be on hold with no definitive end in sight is a test of abundant patience. To have your business closed almost overnight is a test of astronomical courage.
Across communities, the word ‘unprecedented’ is on the tips of our tongues. Unimaginable circumstances forced businesses to lay off beloved employees and face the precipice of closure. Yet, many won’t give up without passionate hard work while adhering to restrictions due to COVID-19. Businesses are adapting to circumstances, albeit heartbroken; proactively creating solutions to piecemeal enough revenue to keep the lights on.
Meet two West Seattle business owners and one manager who with Herculean courage, fortitude and a vision for the future are forging ahead focused on acceptance and concern for others’ well-being.
Dave Montoure stands between heartbreak and hope. After laying off twenty-three members of West 5’s family, the employees who everyday filled diners’ bellies with savory food and circulated the room amidst a cool retro vibe, he’s practically solo. Dave now offers take- out orders. He’s understandably melancholy about the circumstances with hope brewing inside. In the meantime, he meets longtime patrons curbside with a nicely presented to go order. One customer, Barb Wilson greets Dave from her car, having patronized West 5 for seventeen years she’s thrilled to see him and of course, the food; Dave’s mood noticeably lightens in seeing a longtime customer.
“Cataclysmic. Apocalyptic, I can think of a number of different words to describe what’s happening. The shutdown of the dining room has impacted every business that has a dining area. Myself, like all of my peers, faced the awful decision of having to furlough off employees because we don't have any work for them,” Dave said. “When your business comes to an immediate halt, which is challenging for any business owner, I think that all of us in the business community are finding our own ways to determine what that means for us long-term.”
Upon a hopeful reopening, reunited employees will enthusiastically serve unforgettable cocktails to equally unforgettable customers with hearts that never closed. Thank you, Dave for making to-go orders a reality.
Just one block away, a positively proactive and customer-focused CrossFit Coach is hard at work. It’s official, Ariel Berg is now a virtual coach. The impressive CrossFit LOFT business management team took action immediately after COVID-19 news broke. Quick action and a supportive community produced promising results. Customers are engaged and lifting weights in seclusion; yet giggling at the newness of the endeavor.
“We are in the business of helping others be at their personal best and we practice this as a management team. We quickly went to an online version of bootcamp lending customers equipment they use at the loft.” Ariel said. Which, according to Ariel “felt silly at first, lifting weights in our living room, but the other participants are doing the same thing and because of this there’s a sense of shared community,” she said.
The pandemic didn’t stop their business; it just pivoted never taking their eyes off their customer’s best interest. They were poised for adaptation with a business philosophy focused on helping people reach their goals for their healthiest version of themselves, which includes physical, mental and social health.
Another mile down California and equally customer focused business now has its doors closed. This well-established salon set-back from the road, Belli Capelli, which means beautiful hair in Italian and beautiful hair they do have… styled, colored, trimmed, primped and curled locks of hair; it’s not surprising customers are missing the salon’s services.
“It’s shocking for clients who get their hair done every 3-5 weeks. Longtime clients who are being asked to go six to eight weeks without their cares for is not easy, “ said Maria Taylor, owner of Belli Capelli.
The sought-after salon normally bustles with business filled with eight stylists who rent space from Maria, a savvy business-woman who loves her staff and customers as much as they love her. Proud of the business she built almost 28 years-ago, she’s concerned, compassionate and cautious.
“Hair doesn’t stop growing and clients are, in some cases, begging to have their haircut.
The shampooing, cutting and styling a foot away from customers is what concerns us,” she said.
This is heart wrenching for Maria who attributes her work ethic and passion to her Italian roots where much of her family still lives and where the COVID-19 has rapidly spread. “The unknown is really scary for all of us,”Maria said.
“These are really difficult times for everyone in the service industry, aestheticians, nail technicians, restaurants and so many more professions. I am fortunate and blessed to have built a business that stood for almost thirty years; I am grateful.” she said.
Maria wants you to know It’s ok to let your hair down once in a while as long as we’re all safe. Meaning we can go a few weeks without a haircut, we can all be in this together. In the meantime, if you need products delivered (from a safe distance) visit the now closed salon for information taped to the front door.
Photo credit for Ariel Berg is wrong. That’s my photo.
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