'We will come out stronger when this is over'
Spring is typically a busy time for Jodi Moylan, owner of WHITE bridal store on Daniel Island, as wedding season blossoms in Charleston along with the azaleas. But the coronavirus shutdown has canceled countless planned nuptials and other celebratory events in the area, leaving many in the industry in a bit of a holding pattern – and uncertain about exactly when things might return to normal.
“In my industry, brides will eventually be getting married,” said Moylan, who remains optimistic. “And some brides are even having two events. Some are now marrying privately, then having another party in the future to celebrate the marriage with family and friends. For some of these brides, we’ve actually sold two dresses to (them)! As soon as the governor deems it safe to open, we’re going to be crazy busy!”
It’s not the first time Moylan’s business has been through difficult times. She opened her first store, Bridals by Jodi, in 2001, 11 days before 9/11, and then had to trudge through the 2008 recession along with other businesses.
“It’s a great lesson for many business owners to be prepared,” added Moylan.
Daniel Island resident Ellen Robinson, principal event planner for WED, has also been feeling the impact that the shelter in place order is having on the wedding industry.
“This is the strangest situation that planners and the industry have ever been in,” noted Robinson.
Her company typically handles about 25-30 weddings a year. She said, so far during the shutdown, she has had to defer 10 events.
“Most of our brides have been able to reschedule and retain all of their vendors,” said Robinson. “In that way, it’s been really good. The challenge for us in the event industry is that the business will be affected for multiple years because now all of those dates that would have been taken with new business in 2021 are basically just being shifted.”
Daniel Island resident Natalia Akst, owner of MyOrganicBakery, is also choosing to stay positive. Despite the fact that some events aren’t happening, she is still taking orders.
“It was really slow last month, but I think that now people are coming back,” said Akst, who runs her business from home. “They are a little bit tired of the home routine and they want something from an outside vendor.”
Another local vendor in the “celebration” business who saw a marked decrease in bookings is guitarist and singer Seth Carlson, who teaches and plays private gigs.
“I was probably playing maybe 10 events a week,” said Carlson. “And then I went to virtually zero.”
But he continues looking on the bright side. Carlson credits Black Tie Music Academy owners Kris Manning and Braeden Kershner for coming up with fun ideas to entertain the community during this time of social distancing. Manning and Carlson teamed up last week to serenade residents at Daniel Pointe Retirement Community while they watched and listened from their porches or windows.
“We bring the music to them in a capacity that coincides with the CDC recommendations and the state recommendations,” said Carlson. “It’s been really cool to do that because we’ve been brightening up people’s days … They’ve been smiling, they’re dancing, and they’re happy. It’s a release. Just to get everybody out of their seats – because they need that right now.”
“We are all going through difficult times,” Moylan said. “But we will come out stronger when this is over.”
Mission (nearly) Impossible: Providing in-home services from a distance
Providing in-home services when home access is limited seems to be an impossible task. Small business owners are finding creative ways to reach their customers by modifying their offerings and using technology. Meet two local business owners who continue to offer services for the home, from the outside-in.
Kristina Medvedeva is the owner of LINEN, a brick-and-mortar boutique and housekeeping service on Daniel Island. She started her business in December 2018 as a cleaning service company.
“I had so much support through the year of 2019 on Daniel Island and Charleston. My clients were incredible by spreading the word about my company; we had a lot of references and grew tremendously,” she said.
Her success continued when she opened her retail store on Daniel Island later the same year as the cleaning service segment of the business exploded with growth.
With the sudden strike of COVID-19, at least 70% of her revenue was lost.
“My team and I had to come up with some ideas. I couldn’t afford to lose my amazing employees. They are my priority,” Medvedeva said.
Using the organic home goods and gifts available in the retail shop, the motivated team built an online store within a couple of days. The site includes an array of items, such as baskets, linens, jewelry, candles, soaps, and household cleaners. They offer free delivery or porch drop off on purchases over $100.
LINEN also still provides housekeeping services with modifications. Employees are required to wear masks and gloves. Organic cleaning services are not being offered. All surfaces in homes are disinfected with bleaching products and other disinfectants. Clients are not allowed to make any direct contact with employees.
Medvedeva said she is grateful for the support from residents. “I realize that I live and work in such a great place. The DI community has been so amazing to us. Many people placed orders online and bought gift cards. Some of our clients paid for housekeeping services in advance. I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”
Elena MacCartee owns Closets By Elena, a home organizing company. MacCartee worked face-to-face with clients each week, organizing spaces and providing consultations to help people streamline busy areas in their homes.
“After an initial consultation and providing the client with an estimate, I would order and shop for products and then go into their homes, usually within a week, and revamp their space,” she said. “I start by removing everything, cleaning, vacuuming or sweeping as needed and then figuring out how to put everything back in a smarter way.”
MacCartee had a booming business, often finding a need to limit her consultations to two or three clients per week.
“After organizing the space in the home, the job would continue with either going to consignment stores to drop off items or going to donation sites to unload what was no longer needed in the home,” she said. “A big part of my job is helping the client to determine what they don't need anymore or what can easily be replaced if they decide they will need it in the future.”
Now, MacCartee is spending a lot more time on social media, trying to come up with helpful tips from afar. Her biggest challenge has been figuring out ways to help people from a distance, and then, keeping the client motivated to finish the organizing task.
Clients will reach out to her by FaceTime to request virtual consultations. They can show her a space or a room and MacCartee will offer suggestions to reconfigure the area.
“I will also suggest containers they can purchase online or give them tips on repurposing what they have lying around their homes,” she said. “I have done a few videos for local libraries and have done a lot of organizing of my own home. Even an organizer needs to reorganize their own spaces sometimes!”
Construction and home repair workers adjust to coronavirus changes
BY MARIE ROCHA-TYGH
During the COVID-19 crisis some workers are spending a lot of time at home, however for construction and service workers much of their time is spent in other people’s homes. From home building to home repair, these essential businesses are adapting to survive during the pandemic.
Construction companies working on Daniel Island are focused on maintaining strict guidelines for the safety of the community. Robert Crawford, president and owner of Renaissance South Construction, has made numerous changes during the crisis, including installing sanitary hand-washing sinks on construction sites.
“I just want everyone to know how seriously we are all taking this as an industry. I know there is a lot of construction going on right now on Daniel Island. With all of the trucks and activity, it is easy for residents to feel like it’s just business as usual,” he said. “There are a lot of things being done behind the scenes to protect the best interests and health of our clients, our employees and all of our trades/vendors.”
Kevin C. Reed Construction continues to work with limited in-person client contact. Although county and city offices are closed to the public, much of the staff continues to work remotely. Owner Kevin Reed makes sure employees and subcontractors adhere to social distancing protocol and take precautions to keep clients safe.
Reed suggests people considering construction projects should start planning now.
“I believe when this is over there is going to be a big backlog of work,” he said. “I think many of the standard lead times are going to double and triple.”
Prior to the stay-at-home order, Nathan Delpino of Delpino Custom Homes set up remote access for virtual meetings. “It has been a trying time for everyone making the adjustments necessary to make sure we're staying safe during this time,” Delpino said. “As a construction company, we've been able to continue working and to do so safely. We've put a major focus on limiting the number of subs and employees on the job site at the same time.”
Paul Kennedy, president of Kennedy Richter Construction, says it’s hard to know the long-term effects of the crisis.
“We are seeing that some clients are delaying projects and others are proceeding forward. We have teamed up with some new technology groups here locally to start a sanitation division to go along with our standard construction cleaning. We believe that these new methods of sanitation will be the new normal,” explained Kennedy.
Phil Singletary, owner of Air Care Services, has seen slumps and surges in business since the pandemic started. “We have definitely seen a decline in short-term rentals. However, since the coronavirus has affected non-essential workers, which has so many people working from home, HVAC systems are running more than they normally would, [it’s] led to more service calls from homeowners.”
Joe Huotari, owner of Digital Video of Charleston, says the crisis has adversely affected his business.
“Most of the changes due the COVID-19 virus are from the stock market instability. People feel they do not have the money to start or complete projects. Clients are very reluctant to allow us into their homes. We’ve had seven cancellations this week,” said Huotari. The company has strict safety protocols for customers requiring services.
Julie Colson, co-owner at Resort Maintenance Inc., says the pandemic has drastically affected their business when it comes to property maintenance, remodeling projects, heating and air services. Because of the COVID-19 induced slowdown, employee hours have been cut. Colson and her husband, Kevin, are working hard to help customers and also take care of their employees.
“As of right now, Kevin and I have made the decision to ensure all our employees get their 40-hours of pay per week, whether working or at home. This is where the Paycheck Protection Program Loan will be so vital to keep our doors open,” she explained.