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Local businesses adapt and survive in wake of COVID-19

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By Holly Roeder

They share a common viewpoint. Legally, they are considered “essential,” but the businesses that will survive the pandemic know it is the inverse which is actually true.
The customer is essential.
Chester County small businesses are approaching today’s commerce with the future in mind, and not in a “Cash is King” mentality, but more of “We believe the people are our future.” The Chester County Independent recently spoke with Brenda’s Kitchen, El Ranchito and Lofton Chevrolet regarding conducting business in unprecedented times. In addition to explaining how they have adapted their own business model in order to survive in a pandemic economy, each shared how their businesses have adapted to support the customers, who ultimately are feeling the brunt of crisis every single day.
Brenda’s Kitchen, Hwy 45, is open, curbside only, from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Check with Brenda for weekend hours. Breakfast and lunch meals are now only $5, including tax. “I’ve cut my prices, because I know it’s a hard time for everyone,” said owner Brenda Dudley. In addition to cutting the regular prices by nearly half, those working in the medical field receive meals on the house. “This is a horrible time,” Dudley said. “We are going to have to stay together to get through it, but when we do get through it we will be fine.” She said she understands the difficulty many face financially and in health/safety. “The priority at the restaurant is safety for everyone first,” she said, adding that she tries to stay apprised of assistance opportunities for both her staff and customers, helping everyone plan for the future.
Claudia Aleman with El Ranchito Mexican restaurant said she, too, hopes to stay open throughout the coronavirus crisis, but weighs safety first. “I don’t want to risk my community,” Aleman said. Aleman stays in touch with her customers via daily Facebook videos in which she shares specially priced menu items, but also shares health tips and suggestions for navigating daily life through the pandemic.
One of the biggest additions to her restaurant is the addition of a drive through window on the north side of the building. She said it had always been in the plans to add a drive through, and this was the perfect time to work it in. The restaurant was only closed for about a half day for construction. The window allowed her to make the decision she felt lead toward, to close the dining room prior to governors’ orders for restaurants to do so. “It was on my heart,” she said, “I’m going to close (the indoor dining room), it’s the safe thing to do for my family and for everyone.” Aleman said she and her staff take every precaution in preparing food, to ensure it is safe for her customers. “I love my community,” she said. “I want to make sure when I serve the community, I’m protecting the community wearing masks and gloves. We’re Surviving, and serving the community, but really surviving. I want to encourage the community to do their part (with the live videos on Facebook), to stay home, to keep our community healthy. Encourage each other, pray for each other, our friends, leaders. I feel blessed. Support local businesses and each other. If we are doing that, we are going to be ok.”
Lofton Chevrolet is still open and operating both sales and service at the present time. “We are considered an ‘essential’ business, said Kermit Lofton, “because we provide auto repair services for our customers. Although I understand the new laws that have been passed, I feel ALL small businesses are “essential” for our economy in Chester County. It is a tough situation for everyone. Our sales and service were both down for the month of March. GM is in the process of implementing the online service Shop Click and Drive. Customers will be able to select their vehicle, submit a credit application, fill out all necessary forms, and purchase their vehicle online without leaving their home. At Lofton’s we are putting our employees and our customers’ safety first. At present we are handling business in our service and sales departments over the phone or online as much as possible. Besides sanitizing our building, we are also taking extra precautions by providing steering wheel covers, gear shift covers and seat covers. We are following all CDC social guidelines. We are dedicated to taking care of our customers in the best and safest way possible during this difficult time.”  

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