Local business owners struggle through COVID-19 crisis

Local business owners struggle through COVID-19 crisis

Leslie Moore, of the Still on Main indoor mall on Main Street in Pawtucket, said she and her team are taking advantage of being closed to make improvements to the facility, including installing new kitchens for various tenants. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET – From beer makers selling furniture to mini mall owners investing in their properties even though the doors are locked, city business owners are doing their best to battle through the impacts of the new coronavirus.

Nick Garrison, of Foolproof Brewing, had perhaps the most to lose from the pandemic, as his planned sale of the company is now indefinitely on hold as profits have plunged.

According to Garrison, on-premise sales of beer dropped precipitously, causing 70 to 80 percent of sales to disappear immediately. Sales to wholesalers and restaurants slowed or stopped, he said, leading to most staff now being out of work and the ones working barely having enough to put food on the table.

“It’s devastating, it’s heartbreaking,” he said of the collapse of the hospitality industry.

It wasn’t all bad news for the breweries over the past week. Garrison and others lobbied heavily for Gov. Gina Raimondo to allow limited sales of beer and wine with takeout orders at Rhode Island restaurants, and she agreed with an executive order last week.

Garrison was getting creative on social media this week as he promoted takeout beer sales and even posted a pair of handcrafted Adirondack chairs made out of whiskey barrels for $499 apiece. With beer sales allowed with takeout orders, he was also offering a third chair to the Rhode Island liquor store that sells the most Foolproof beer in March and April.

Other breweries in Pawtucket’s recently blossoming craft beer scene were also trying to offset losses from sit-down clientele by promoting take-home beer sales during limited hours.

Doors this week were locked at numerous other businesses in Pawtucket, including the Still on Main mini mall at 250 Main St., where owner Leslie Moore said many of the entrepreneurs who run businesses there have been laid off from their other jobs. EP Kitchen remains open for takeout orders.

This situation is so difficult for everyone, said Moore, but she and her team are using this time to make upgrades to the building, including finishing multiple kitchen spaces for existing tenants.

Up the road at Klibanoff Eye Associates, staff have closed the doors to routine eye care appointments through March 28, though the company is available to triage all urgent and emergent issues. Customers can still reach the company during normal business hours.

Others, such as Broadway Tire, were staying open but reassuring nervous customers that it’s fine to reschedule an appointment. Staff said in a post that they’re disinfecting surfaces on a frequent basis to keep families safe.

It wasn’t all bad news for local business. The family-owned Simpson’s Pharmacy on Newport Avenue, which specializes almost entirely in medical supplies, was one of those seeing a rush of business, as was Stop & Shop on Cottage Street. Both stores were struggling to keep up with the demand for toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Simpson’s posted on March 19 that the store had toilet paper, paper towels, gloves, sanitizer and baby wipes all back in stock.

Stephen Sherman, of Foolproof Brewing off Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket, was selling canned beers to a smattering of customers last Friday after the brewery saw a steep decline in walk-in traffic.