How our local business community has managed in the wake of COVID-19

Photos By Noushin Nourizadeh

We have all been affected by the coronavirus in some way, and we’re certainly not out of the woods yet. But recently, when we reached out to more than a dozen of our loyal advertisers to see how they were doing, we were deeply touched by what they had to say. They told tales of uncertainty, redirection, optimism, and hope. We’re honored to share their stories with you.

Fabio Speziali at Pomodoro
Fabio Speziali at Pomodoro

Owner, Osteria Romantica, Pomodoro, and Pummaro
“We bought the building that houses one of my restaurants, Pomodoro, a year ago. I was planning to eventually make the patio area look more attractive, but when the pandemic hit, it became a priority. We expanded the space, which allows us to have more customers. We offer food to go, but I like to see a lot of people here enjoying the food and having a good time. In La Jolla, they closed the street, so Osteria Romantica has a lot of extra tables outside and business is good. For me, it has been important to count on myself and just a few people to run the business and make it tight. We’re going to get through this, you know.”

Linda Jalving at Jewels By the Sea
Linda Jalving at Jewels By the Sea

Owner, Jewels By the Sea
“What I truly enjoy about my business is the person-to-person interaction. I am not particularly computer literate, so all the well-meaning suggestions of moving my business online just put me farther into a funk. My biggest challenges have been to maintain an attitude of hopefulness through month-after-month of continued business shutdowns and the realization that being able to be open does not necessarily mean ‘back in business.’ I have learned not to take my business for granted, and I’ve made a conscious decision to do my absolute best to stay open. My friends and clients have been a godsend. Their continued encouragement and support mean the world to me!”

Cody and Kensey Decker at Decker’s Dog + Cat
Cody and Kensey Decker at Decker’s Dog + Cat

Owners, Decker’s Dog + Cat
“We opened our doors in June 2019 and were able to gain a little bit of traction, but when the pandemic hit, our business basically changed in the course of one month. As an essential business because we provide food for pets, we were allowed to stay open, but our dog day care business suddenly dropped. We decided to convert our day care space to retail and expand our offerings, as well as provide curbside pick up and home delivery, which has helped us out a lot. Our customers have been so loyal and encouraging. We’ll never be able to thank them enough. It’s important to remain optimistic and positive because, as retailers, we’re a source of energy in this town.”

Randy Gruber at Elixir
Randy Gruber at Elixir

Owner, Americana Restaurant and Elixir
“Our greatest obstacle has been our capacity seating, and it’s all outdoors. We’re lucky to have seating outside, and we’re approved for an awning so we can heat our expanded outdoor space on colder days. We keep tables six feet apart and practice all the proper protocols to keep our staff and clientele safe. I’ve had to be very lean with my expenses. As a business, you’ve got to be able to pivot quickly because the regulations can change so fast. It’s important to be positive. We’ve made it this far, so let’s keep going. If we can just get through this, I think Del Mar is going to explode with great new businesses and things to do.”

Owner, Orchard Hill Country Inn
“As soon as we closed, I began to think about reopening. I knew we’d be able to provide our guests with fresh air and solitude, but they would also want to be able to shop and dine in town. So, I stayed in close contact with the Julian Chamber of Commerce to keep track of the other local businesses, because we could not reopen without them. The San Diego County Health Department encouraged us to reopen as early as possible because people confined to their homes in San Diego had a yearning to get out into nature. Now that we’re open, we’re very busy but cautious. We are all definitely in this together.”

Owner, Be Seen Optics
“Even when we were closed, I was at Be Seen Optics every day, answering phone calls and emails. We were pretty busy. We got a lot of calls from panicked customers whose optical shop had shut down and they had broken their frame or had run out of contact lenses. Our biggest challenge remains making sure that all the frames that have been tried on have been completely sterilized. We bought a machine that does all the work for us. Plus, we use a liquid cleaner to clean all the surfaces between guests. Customer service has always been our top priority, and it’s even more so now.”

Owner, Sarah Winter Dental
“One of the things that appealed to me about entering the field of dentistry was, it’s stable. Well, that changed this year. It really took our footing away to have the business shut down and stay closed for 10 weeks, as I know it did for many. I spent that time researching COVID-19 and trying to figure out what I was going to do to help my staff and patients feel safe. To make everything as sterile as possible, I invested in a lot of equipment and created a stringent set of safety protocols. We opened slowly, holding safety paramount. Since then, feedback from my staff and patients has been very positive. COVID-19 has changed the way we do a lot of things, and I think that’s ok.”

Molly Rossettie at Hi Sweetheart
Molly Rossettie at Hi Sweetheart

Owner, Hi Sweetheart
“I’ve been in business for seven years, and I have a wonderfully loyal clientele. In March, when I chose to temporarily close the shop before the mandate, I was relieved knowing my website was up and ready. I was able to redirect my customers there and started doing home deliveries, which kept me busy and was a lot of fun. I feel very grateful to my customers for their loyalty through these tough times. If I could give fellow business owners advice, I would say refocus on the elements that don’t cost money. Refresh the business Instagram. Post some fun and uplifting content, engage with new followers, update your eBlast list, and reach out to the people you know. Remind them you’re there and happy to help.”

Carol Temple at Solana Beach Art & Frame
Carol Temple at Solana Beach Art & Frame

Owner, Solana Beach Art & Frame
“Shortly after the close order, customers started pulling up in front of the gallery with framed artwork to upgrade. Since they were spending much more time at home, the reflective glass on their artwork started to bother them. We use a premium non-reflective museum glass that provides 99 percent UV protection and a clear view of the art from any angle, so we replaced their glass. Then we started refurbishing mats and adding beautiful new frames as needed. I feel fortunate that the business was able to adapt to our customers’ needs at this unprecedented time and actually provide a service to those sheltering at home.”

Owner, Sigi’s Boutique
“When I realized early on that the shutdown of my business wasn’t going to be short term, I took the opportunity to reimagine the business going forward. I knew that thing I wanted to do was to start a shopping website. I also realized that this was a time of change for consumers, and I quickly changed my merchandising to reflect that. I’m looking at buying things that will make customers feel good, comfortable, and happy. People want to be loyal to the stores they love, and I’m happy to say that our efforts seem to be paying off.”

Owner, Grande Colonial Hotel and NINE-TEN Restaurant
“When the crisis first began, our heads were spinning. New regulations quickly changed into other new regulations, many of which contradicted the guidance received days earlier. Initially, we were closed by state mandate for nearly three months. Survival during this very dynamic crisis has been highly dependent on our ability to quickly adapt and pivot. It is never pleasant to look at the glass half empty, but if you can anticipate what that might look like, you are able to plan for how to overcome it. The critical thing to be focused on today is maintaining your relationship with your customers and with the amazing employees who helped build your success prior to this crisis.”

Owner, Pedego Electric Bikes La Jolla
“I’ve learned that in the most disconcerting and insecure times in life, people rise to the challenge. As a business owner, the amount of support and respect we’ve experienced has been beyond anything I had ever witnessed and experienced in my lifetime. We, in turn, have reciprocated by working literally around-the-clock to meet the requests of the community to provide healthy, positive solutions to families suffering the mental and physical ill-effects of the mandated stay-at-home orders. We are all working in-community to support one another on every level and make the best of one of the most difficult times in our history. In this regard, COVID-19 has had unprecedented, positive effects that appear to be ongoing, with a stronger sense of community abounding throughout the world.”

Pam Schwartz at Ranch 45
Pam Schwartz at Ranch 45

General Manager, Ranch 45
“My biggest challenge has been dealing with my staff and customers through the fear of the unknown. A lot of positive has come out of this, too. Previously, we weren’t able to be open for dinner, so we were closed before many residents of our neighborhood got home from work. When the pandemic hit and non-essential workers were told to stay home, we put ‘we have groceries’ on our chalkboard out front and staff members stood on the sidewalk with a ‘we’re open’ sign. I posted on our website that we were still open for take-out, and people found us. This crisis has reminded me that being there for the community is important, and every penny counts.”

Chef, Brockton Villa
“As a restaurant, our biggest challenge has been seating, given current restrictions. We’ve been able to add a side yard deck that seats up to 18 guests, as well as several tables out in front on a temporary deck. Our food suppliers work hard to get us what we need, and our owners, Megan and David Heine, are constantly thinking outside the box. We’ve reinvented our menu and now include some incredible to-go items like a giant charcuterie board for four to eight people with a variety of cheeses, sausages, and other items. It’s really popular. We even offer to-go drinks. It’s important to use your imagination.”