Postcards - Reopening Businesses in Connecticut | ReOpen Connecticut

ReOpen Together

Profile photo of John Fontanez, a recreation therapist assistant in Connecticut who is helping people cope with disruptions caused by COVID-19Chalk on the ground with a motivational quote, “we are all a little broken, but broken crayons can color too
John Fontanez
Recreational Therapist Assistant, Solnit South PRTF
How have you helped the young people you work with cope with the disruptions caused by the pandemic?
We've focused on engagement, empowerment and positivity. The young people we work with at Solnit South PRTF are working through mental health or behavioral issues so it's really important to give them a positive outlet when there is added level of uncertainty around them.
How have you changed the way your program operates to protect health and safety?
Staff are required to wear masks at all times while working and we've provided cloth masks for all youth to wear while outside their rooms. We have incorporated physical distancing and increased disinfecting of common "high-touch" spaces.
Photo of Devin and Jay Sardilli, the business owners of Sardilli’s ProduceTwo police officers and staff of Sardilli’s Produce standing next to boxes of produce
Devin and Jay Sardilli
Owners, Sardilli’s Produce
How has your business adapted during the pandemic?
In the beginning, we lost a lot of our business. We provided produce for schools, company cafeterias and the casinos and lost about 70-75% of that business, so we reached out to retailers who were having trouble keeping up with the demand for produce. We realized people were having some anxiety about going to the grocery stores, so we decided to offer curbside produce pick-up, now we are up to 2,000 cars a week. It has helped us put some of our furloughed employees back to work.
What have you learned?
The number one lesson learned is “you can’t sit and do nothing.” The second is the power of social media. We started this with a few followers on Instagram and now we have 1,500 followers. It has helped us communicate with our customers and get feedback from them.
Photo of Dave Booth, the business owner of Hall’s MarketThe staff of Hall’s Market wearing face masks and standing outside the store
Dave Booth
Hall’s Market
How has your business adapted during the pandemic?
When this started Peapod and Amazon had waiting periods for delivery, and we could offer same day delivery. Our focus was on providing food for our customers safely, while looking out for the health of our employees, so we started offering curbside pick-up and delivery services, as well as offered our employees masks and gloves. Through all of this, we have been able to keep our employees.
What have the challenges been?
We take it day-by-day. We were not set up for online orders, so we are adjusting by taking our orders over the phone, but we are making it work.
Photo of Lucia Furman, the president of Mercantile Development, Inc (MDI)An employee of Mercantile Development
Lucia Furman
President, Mercantile Development, Inc (MDI)
How has your business adapted during the pandemic?
Upon returning from international travel in early March, I cancelled further travel and trade shows and started ordering the supplies and PPE I thought we would need to get through this. Because we make cleaning supplies and our products are used for sanitizing and disinfecting, we met the definition of an essential business.
What have the challenges been?
We separated our staff into different teams that use different entrances and exits, restrooms and break rooms to allow for social distancing. We went from running shifts Monday-Friday to running 10-hour shifts Monday-Thursday to allow time for cleaning and disinfecting so we could bring in another team to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Photo of Neil Gilman, the president of Gilman GearEmployees of Gilman gear manufacturing PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
Neil Gilman
President, Gilman Gear
What made you switch from your normal sporting good business to the production of personal protective equipment (PPE)?
I wanted to find a meaningful way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and a lot of the machines needed to produce hospital gowns are ones that we use in our normal operations. We made a prototype and established a partnership with Yale New Haven Hospital and the State of Connecticut to supply them. In addition to providing much needed PPE, it allowed us to keep the company going while our sporting goods business essentially came to a halt.
How are you thinking about the future?
We certainly see an opportunity to continue producing PPE and to bring the same quality and commitment to this business as we do to our sporting goods operation. We’ve already been able to innovate by offering washable, re-usable, isolation gowns as well as an isolation hood that has a face shield that prevents the N95 masks from getting contaminated. I’m confident that if we continue to move forward with our values and standards top of mind, the future will bring new opportunities.
Store front of Amato’s Toy and Hobby Store. Owned by Diane and Caroline GervaisAmato’s Toy customer picking up her toys order following a no-contact pickup policy
Diane and Caroline Gervais
Owner and Daughter, Amato’s Toy and Hobby Store
How has your business been during the pandemic?
We are a third generation family owned business. We know that even in uncertain times, kids still have birthdays and the Easter Bunny still comes. During this time, we have made 220 elaborate Easter baskets and people from all over the country have called to select gifts for their relatives living locally.
How has Amato’s Toy and Hobby Store adapted during the pandemic?
Caroline came up with a no-contact pickup idea called “Toy Store Takeout.” Our customers can also call or FaceTime us to shop virtually. The bright spot in all of this has been getting to know our customers better. Included with each gift we sell is a handwritten, personal note from the staff member who fulfilled the order. We want our customers to know that we are thinking of them.
Photo of Douglas Wade, the owner of Wade’s DairyA Wade’s Dairy truck with milk inventory on the road
Douglas Wade
Owner, Wade’s Dairy
How has your business adapted during the pandemic?
Before this crisis, about 40 percent of our total business came from public schools. On March 15, when they all closed, we had 8,000 cases of milk without a home. Suddenly, stores started calling us, asking if we could deliver milk. Orders started rolling in as soon as we began advertising home milk delivery.
How has Wade’s Dairy helped others during this time?
Even though schools are closed, we are able to donate milk to emergency feeding programs. These programs distribute lunch to children who would have received free meals during the school day. We also donate three percent of our profits from home deliveries to St Vincent’s Hospital Milk Fund, which delivers milk to the homeless.
Photo of Lelania Dubay the owner of Hartford Flavor CompanyLavender hand sanitizer produced by Hartford Flavor Company
Lelania Dubay
Creatix and Infusionary, Hartford Flavor Company
How has business been since Hartford Flavor Company started making hand sanitizer?
People began buying it as fast as we were making it. We have been able to provide hand sanitizer to corporations, hospitals, municipalities, local police departments and individuals. We had to extend our hours and adapt to being open every day. The hardest part of the transition was finding bottles for the hand sanitizer.
What advice do you have for other business owners?
I had to learn to take a deep breath, go with the flow, smile and figure it out. Think about what you and your business can do to help the greater good.
Photo of Brian Montanari the President & CEO of HABCOEmployees of HABCO dressed in protective gear in the warehouse
Brian Montanari
President & CEO, HABCO
How has your business adapted during the pandemic?
Habco started looking at what was happening in other parts of the world and realized in February that we had to prepare for the worst. By mid-March we had acquired our PPE, implemented staff temperature checks and enabled all staff that could do so to work from home. We also moved to a two-shift system with no overlaps between shifts, staggered breaks, and developed ways to decrease the number of people working at any given time.
What advice do you have for other businesses?
Communication has been key, and even though we have been working split shifts and half the company has been working from home, we have put a priority on maintaining a sense of community within the company. We started a YouTube channel and I post daily videos, highlighting important news and information about what is happening in Connecticut, the country and our company. We have a strong corporate culture and it was important to continue that during this time.