Planning for the new normal

By Posted on May 19 2020 | By

Business owners envision a different tomorrow

The Nation is in suspended animation due to COVID-19, but the American can-do spirit will prevail. The winds of positive change will ultimately billow the sails of the economic ship of state and move the country forward. But it will take time.

Here’s how four county businesses view the lockdown and recovery.

Claire’s at the Depot
Claire Lamborne owns her restaurant like Tiger Woods owns his swing. The eatery is part of her very core, and she will fight to make certain it endures. To that end, she will again reopen for curbside service.

Her curbside service was offered for a short time when the economy was first placed in lockdown. But managing a crowded staff in a tight kitchen led to her suspending it, to the disappointment of her loyal customers. Now she’s back.

While answers to many questions about the recovery process are yet to be answered, she will not wait until they are to revive an income stream. “My accountant doesn’t have answers to my questions, and I need to find a tax attorney,” said Lamborne.

“In the interim, I think we solved some issues with the carryout and will soon offer it again.”

Lamborne thinks she can work around the tight kitchen issues while keeping her staff safe. While she has 36 employees, only mostly kitchen staff will be brought back at first. She believes curbside service will last longer than some people think.

Lamborne said, “Before we were trying to do food hot and that became very difficult. This time we’ll be doing curbside meals that are cooked and ready for reheating at home with instructions on how to reheat.”

The new approach allows for preplanning menu selections and calming the previously busy kitchen scene.

Will Lamborne’s new world mean a delay in her retirement plans? “Oh, my gosh, yes! The value of my business has dropped, so now I plan to work till I’m 80-years-old. I’m healthy, so hopefully, I’ll be able to that.”

Her closing thought on when she does reopen is she won’t be able to accommodate as many diners as before. “I think there will still be social distancing. We’ll need to get those patio chairs and tables painted,” she said, laughing.

Great Meadow Foundation
John Hochheimer is chairman of the board of the Great Meadow Foundation. He said they have had to cancel or postpone several of their planned events. The largest one to date is Gold Cup. It has been rescheduled for June 20, assuming conditions permit.

Twilight Polo was supposed to start May 23, but the potential new start date is now June 13. “Honestly, all of our plans depend on what the Governor recommends and what the requirements will be once the stay-at-home policy is lifted,” said Hochheimer.

“Our revenue is down some 20 to 25 percent.” He underscores the foundation is hurting because the delayed events are the core of their revenue. Nonetheless, the staff of seven is still working, and the gates are open.

“People are welcome to come out to Great Meadow and walk the grounds and exercise their dogs individually and in small groups. It’s largely a wait and see situation.” Fortunately, much of what was unfolding at the spacious outdoor venue was just ramping up.

Rescheduling the more significant events later in the year will save many of the season’s activities.

Several smaller events, like the National Rocket Contest, will be rolled over to next year’s schedule. Most of the cancelations are based simply on the unknown. Groups need to plan weeks or months in advance. Not knowing how the future will unfold leads to cancellations.

“We’ll continue to update our website when things are rescheduled. And we do welcome visitors to come out and enjoy the grounds. But I ask that people clean up after themselves and their pets,” said Hochheimer.

Fauquier Springs Country Club
Shawn Rogers is the general manager of the venerable club that was established in 1957. It has about 325 members. The facility has a restaurant, pool, tennis courts, and a golf course. While the restaurant is closed it is offering carryout service.

“One of the major complications we have seen throughout this situation are the protocols we’ve had to put into place to keep our club going. The Virginia Department of Health has been fantastic as to what we needed to implement.

“The Governor has allowed us to keep the golf course open, and our number of rounds are up. Every cart is sterilized before it goes out, and only one golfer per cart is allowed. We’ve removed the sand-divot containers from the carts and anything else a player might touch.

Players are not allowed to touch or remove the flag pin during play.” Rogers said.

The club’s most substantial revenue producers are its banquet and event operations. “We have been severely hurt in those areas. A lot of weddings and special events have been rescheduled. In March and April, we lost $150,000 in revenue. Every day this goes on, we are at risk of losing even more.”

Rogers thinks the country club will survive without difficulty for two to three months. After that, it will become more problematic. “Right now, we’re OK. But not as OK as we should be.”

Fauquier County Chamber of Commerce
Joe Martin has no medical degree, nor does he carry a black medical bag and a stethoscope. Still, he knows the pulse and temperature of the Fauquier County business community.

For over a decade, Martin has served as the president of the Fauquier County Chamber of Commerce. He has successfully guided the organization’s 530 members through robust economic growth. Today, he’s a whirling dervish working to keep his “family” safe from harm.

“We have a weekly conference call with numerous regional leadership organizations strategizing on how to address the critical issues facing us. I’m also on Zoom calls daily with local, state, and federal agencies for the same purpose.

“The communication outreach across these dozens of organizations has been phenomenal. One minor but important aspect of all of this is we’ll be using these communication technologies from here on out,” said Martin.

To focus on real-world concerns and seek advice from chamber members and their guests, a monthly virtual luncheon is hosted by Martin, where attendees go “around the screen” and share successes, struggles and challenges. It’s an opportunity for one story to answer dozens of questions.

Martin finds it reassuring in such stressed times that most of the groups and individuals he’s interacting with generally have a positive feeling about the future. But the pain experienced by small businesses is of particular concern to him.

The downturn will end, and Martin, in concert with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, is working on a recovery plan to help make it happen.

Martin muses, “The recovery is not going to spring back overnight. It will be a slow and methodical process of likely a year or more. Yes, there will be pent up demand, but it will not be an explosive recovery. But it will happen. Staying focused and positive is key.”

Published April 2020 in the Fauquier Times.

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