Reopening Under a “New Normal” in Carmel
Over the last couple of weeks, our local businesses have been either reopening after being shut down for nearly two months or operating in a severely modified mode of doing business. We spoke with a few local business owners—Shelley Najem, co-owner at Savor Restaurant; Kimberly “Kim” Peters, eyewear curator at Eyes on Main; Scot Pollard, Realtor at Kempler-Pollard Group Encore Sotheby’s International Realty; and Mark Moreland, owner/personal trainer at Body Outfitters Personal Training Studio—to learn more about what ingenious things they were doing throughout the stay-at-home order and how they are going about the reopening process and doing business in a “new normal” pandemic society.
Navigating Through Uncharted Waters
“As the recommendations and regulations came down, we immediately had the conversations with our clients about what they felt comfortable doing,” Pollard said. “We offered to keep their homes on the market if they wanted to and offered to temporarily pull it off [the market] if that’s what they were comfortable doing.”
Pollard credits the MIBOR REALTOR Association (MIBOR) for providing its members with recommendations and regulations as they were coming online.
“MIBOR did a great job of keeping us informed,” Pollard said. “What has been most surprising is that our market has shown no signs of really slowing down. In fact, the numbers from March and April are up from this time last year. I can’t explain it, but it’s a fact. So, we didn’t want to shut our operations down.”
To that end, Savor Restaurant and Eyes on Main both recently opened at the beginning of 2020 and had no desire to completely shut down. So, while abiding by the governor’s stay-at-home order and the regulations that were put into place, all three of these businesses found ingenious ways to keep trudging forward.
“Once the state shut things down, we began offering our curbside pickup and delivery,” Najem said. Najem and her husband, Henri, have over 60 employees that depend on them for their livelihoods, and they were compelled to keep their staff figuratively and literally fed. “We kept all of our employees on who wanted to be on. Most people in the restaurant business are living paycheck to paycheck. Carmel is the most generous community. People have been tipping generously.”
Peters and her husband, Tony, were able to keep their on-site lab open—at Eyes on Main—to fulfill as many orders as possible while abiding by the state’s regulations.
“While we were closed, we were still ‘in the office’ and feel lucky that our employer kept us on the payroll,” Peters shared. “We’re happy about that, and we’ve had quite a few inquiries about getting scheduled for an eye exam!”
Mark Moreland described his studios’ reaction as proactive rather than reactive to the stay-at-home order. “Leading up to closing, we were already making a hard pivot to virtual training,” Moreland said. “If you look at what we sell—beyond the feel of the environment and rapport we have with our clients—it’s knowledge, intensity and accountability. Whether we’re doing a live session in person, on computer screens or I’m making you a template with recorded videos, I’m able to continue to offer knowledge, I can still modify your intensity and keep you accountable. So, our pivot was actually pretty clean, and we were able to operate at 40% revenue, which is way better than zero.”
Going Forward Into a “New Normal”
While you can bring in your own prescription and shop for your new eyewear at Eyes on Main, clients can enjoy the one-stop-shop, concierge-service experience and book an eye appointment with Dr. Linda Venezia O.D., M.S. Dr. Venezia is expecting a child in June, and her husband, Dr. John Venezia, will be filling in.
“We are happy to have Dr. John Venezia—Dr. Linda’s husband and optometrist—join us on Tuesdays,” Peters explained. “As far as our safety precautions are concerned, we are only allowing four guests in at a time in the store. We can also schedule private fittings. We would like for our guests to wear a mask upon entering, and masks will be required in the exam room. We will also have on our masks. We will be able to provide masks for people who do not have one.”
Peters explained that guests’ temperatures will be taken when they come in as well.
“As far as frames go, we are adhering to the available standards for sterilizing glasses,” Peters said. “Tony and I are working in tandem on sanitizing the products that we have here in the store, and we are asking our guests to sanitize their hands.”
What is interesting is that amid a pandemic, the local real estate market is still active and is currently a seller’s market. Pollard shared that there are more buyers than inventory in the market that he and his partner, Joe Kempler, currently work in.
“I’m not going to say that inventory is ridiculously low, but it is slower than normal for this time of year,” Pollard said. “It is absolutely a seller’s market right now. We’ve been taking advantage of technology and the tools that MIBOR has given us. We have remote closings so the clients don’t even have to physically be present and are permitted to do electronic signing, and the title company that we work with has been great about communicating with everyone, and we are able to keep exposure [to COVID-19] down.”
Now that restaurants have been given the “green light” to reopen their dining areas, Najem and her husband have implemented the state’s guidelines but continue to practice health and safety protocols they put into place last fall at the onset of the flu season.
“We are open for dining at 50% capacity and are following all the regulations,” Najem said. “We are continuing our curbside pickup as well. Back in late October, early November, we were bleaching, sanitizing and screening our employees because of the flu. So, in addition to all the current regulations, we’re practicing all the safety precautions we were already doing.”
Moreland concluded, “I read a quote, ‘Adversity fuels innovation.’ I’m interested in seeing how many businesses developed something unique during this time and keep it so that it actually becomes another piece of their business.”