Local Businesses Endure Pandemic Community Support Makes It Possible

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, local businesses everywhere have been struggling to survive. Many business owners are faced with fear due to the uncertain future and others have been bolstered by dedicated customers that have kept them on their feet.

Winthrop Pro Shop Owner, Jim Gillis, is concerned about the loss of school and youth sports going forward, but he is humbled by the support that he’s received from residents.

“I’m so thankful for this community, I can’t say that enough,” said Gillis, who has owned the shop for 15 years. “From the time I was able to open the shop back up, I’ve seen a lot of people come in to buy t-shirts or apparel.”

A good portion of the Pro Shop’s sales stem from the embroidery and screen print part of the business, which Gillis said is thanks to word of mouth. While he’s concerned about losing sports apparel purchases with a delayed school opening and a lack of team sports, he’s seen a rise in business purchases from Winthrop and other surrounding communities.

“I do a lot of company t-shirts and polos and our turnaround time is quick. Thanks to the word of mouth, it’s kept me busy enough, but if sports doesn’t come back for another year, that will be a big hit.”

With one-fifth of Massachusetts’ restaurants closing permanently as a result of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for businesses to support one another. Antique Table recently announced the expansion of their takeout restaurant Piccolo Piatti, and Gillis will be creating the shirts for their staff members. Now offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Piccolo Piatti will have a brand new outdoor seating section.

In the heart of center, the Winthrop Book Depot has limited outdoor seating, however; they have continued to go strong thanks to the support of the community.

“The community has really showed up for us,” said Owner, Suzanne Martucci. “Thanks to their support, it hasn’t slowed down much at all for us.”

Some local businesses are use to seasonal shifts in business. Owner of Surf Cleaners, Marco Tieri, has always seen a decline in sales during the summer months, however; with less people needing to get dressed up for the office, that decline has been more prominent.

“For the most part, business is down compared to what we are normally at,” said Tieri. “People aren’t going into the office so they don’t need dry cleaning as much, Tieri added”

According to Tieri, spring and fall is typically the busiest season for the dry cleaning business, and he depends on a boost in business in April and May for formals, proms, weddings and christenings, but now that people aren’t gathering for events, he’s seen a major reduction. After six weeks of being closed, Surf Cleaners opened back up on May 4 and Tieri saw an initial push, thanks to the help of offering different delivery options and a wash, dry and fold service, but since then it’s dropped again.

“We are surviving and trying our best to make it work. All businesses are in the same boat-people aren’t going out as much and without customers, businesses can not survive. The Chamber of Commerce has done a phenomenal job during this challenging time and they’ve been there supporting us nonstop.”

Many local businesses have relied on one another for support. When Robin’s Nest Gift Shop  was closed at the start of the pandemic, the Book Depot and Swett’s Liquors stepped up and allowed some of the gift store’s merchandise to be displayed in their stores. Since opening back up, Robin’s Nest has seen an increase in sales.

“We are extremely grateful for our social media followers, they are the customers who kept us going during the months we were forced to be closed,” said Owner, Robin Gerolamo. “We have been pleasantly surprised with the steady amount of foot traffic we have seen since re-opening. We have safety measures in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for our customers. We are blessed with amazingly supportive customers and our recent NorthShore Magazine win for Readers’ Choice Best Gift Shop has helped with new customers finding us. We send a heartfelt thank you to everyone for Shopping Local.”

While Robin’s Nest is the type of store where people like to shop in-person, Gerolamo is currently redesigning a website that will offer online shopping for those who can’t make it to the shop.

The pandemic has been the reason for many family and work life changes, and as a result, 40% of Inc.ubate Coworking members have had to shift gears whether it was due to a loss of job, becoming the primary childcare giver, or someone not yet ready to be in public.

“Since then,  we’ve seen many new members who are tired of working from home or simply don’t have a space to do so,” said Michael Lucerto, owner and founder of Winthrop’s only coworking space. “I’d say for every member we lost we have just about recovered with someone looking for a new and better way to work.”

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Betsy Shane is focused on keeping the businesses open.

“My main focus is keeping everyone open and with the help of marketing, outdoor seating, social media and working together creatively, I think we can accomplish that.”

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