Business Spotlight: The unusual becomes usual for businesses during pandemic

Online tools allow organizations like the Boca Raton Chamber to provide training seminars with no health risk to attendees. Photo provided

By Christine Davis 

In days to come, what will “business as usual” look like? Here’s how our chambers of commerce see it.


Stephanie Immelman, CEO of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, says the chamber and its members are “pivoting” in various ways in reaction to the coronavirus.


“We are going to continue providing online content, such as webinars and forums,” she says, while mentioning other local businesses looking at new ways to operate.


“We have worked closely with the Business Assistance Task Force, made up of the city, CRA, DDA and chamber, and we worked with about 25 local business leaders from all industries to garner their input for best practices for the phased reopenings,” Immelman said.


SEP Communications, a printing company, is selling personal protection equipment online to help employees of essential businesses stay safe; Signarama is providing customers with plexiglass shields to help with distancing and health safety as businesses reopen, and Studio B2, a photography service in Delray, is working with clients to improve their online presence via search engine optimization.


“Our goal was to be the primary source of relevant information for our membership and our community during this time,” Immelman says.


The chamber has continued with its Delray Morning Live Facebook show with Amanda Perna and Ryan Boylston at 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays. It’s been sending out daily email blasts with city news and tips for members. It has redesigned DelrayBeach.com, initiated weekly lunch-and-learn webinars on Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. and continued online meetings with the Government Affairs First Friday Forum.


“Not only do we have a lot of participation online, many others watch later — so we are reaching a bigger audience,” Immelman says. “We will continue with all these initiatives, even when we are able to meet in person, because it has extended our reach and our audience.”
 
The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority suggests that people check out downtowndelraybeach.com/emergency411 for up-to-date information. It includes safety measures, ways to support small businesses, and lists of restaurants and other businesses open during the phased process. 


Executive Director Laura Simon notes that “many have adjusted their operating style to navigate the new normal. They have ramped up or launched a social media presence. Restaurants have added curbside takeout and increased delivery options. The fitness studios are doing online classes and have found that they are reaching a wider audience.” Businesses are finding that such practices can drive sales, create interest from outside Delray Beach and enhance their marketing efforts, so they plan to continue along these avenues, Simon said. What this crisis has also provided is time for them to stop, re-evaluate and adjust their business models, which in turn will aid them in the future.


Monthly First Friday art walks, for example, have gone online, and a couple of the hotels are offering specials to first responders.
Gulf Stream resident Carrie Delafield’s three stores, Periwinkle, Morley and Coco & Company, started a “Send A Little Sunshine” promotion in which they put together a surprise package of items for shoppers to send to someone to brighten their day.
 
Although the Boca Chamber is heavily involved with a Moving Business Forward initiative on how to reopen businesses and nonprofits safely, CEO Troy McLellan acknowledges that by a chamber’s very nature, it is about members connecting in person for workshops, meetings and so on.


“However, the current atmosphere has given us the opportunity to think about how to communicate,” he says. “We’ve cranked out so many virtual meetings, which the coronavirus made necessary, because in-person meetings necessitate protocols regarding social distancing” and disinfecting the venues afterward.


“I plan to bring my team back to our office when we can, but we are going to look at our structures as well as our remote-working policies.”


As businesses reopen, “they have the top priorities of keeping their employees and customers safe,” McLellan says.


“I believe that the amount of activity they will see will be driven by consumer confidence and it will be up to the businesses to instill that confidence in their customers. They are doing a great job with complying with guidelines and that’s been good to see.”
 
The Lantana Chamber of Commerce, which usually has in-house group activities and weekly meetings, has instituted a twice-a-month Zoom get-together and business card exchange, says the chamber’s president, David Arm.


He says that he’s seeing brick-and-mortar businesses being hit harder than legal, insurance and accounting firms that are conducting business without meeting face-to-face with their clients.


“The insurance business seems to be doing quite well,” he says. “The restaurants were obviously severely restricted, and most were surviving by offering takeout and delivery services.”


Now restaurants and retail businesses have reopened on a limited basis, “but many are still doing specials and take-outs,” Arm says of restaurants. “And in Lantana, they can apply for outdoor seating permits, for free.”


Other than that, is he seeing businesses pivot? “Not really so much,” he says. “Most people are considering this situation as a temporary phenomenon that could have permanent implications. This will eventually go away.


“But, realistically, I think this whole experience is going to be a work in progress for some time. We don’t know how the customers and clients are going to react. Are they going to be gun-shy? And so, I think it’s a matter of businesses adapting, and once they open up, they will change their game plans and the way they do business on an ongoing basis.”
 

In other local business news:


Delivery Dudes has gone the extra mile with its launch of Dudes Bodega, which rolled out in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.


A solution to help residents who need essential supplies but can’t or shouldn’t leave their homes, Dudes Bodega offers pickup and delivery from anywhere for a flat fee of $5.


Delivery Dudes, based in Delray Beach, has also secured health care professionals to train team members on how to conduct health and temperature checks before every shift at all Delivery Dudes hubs.


Customers can visit DeliveryDudes.com, use the app, or call 561-900-7060 to place an order.
 

Members of the Lang Cares team, including Scott Agran in the foreground, made sure that local feeding programs could stay on target. Photo provided


Lang Realty agents spent the last week in April delivering meals to first responders, donating money and food to area food banks and sponsoring 250 meals for people in need.


Lang Realty’s corporate office presented a $1,000 check to The Soup Kitchen of Boynton Beach, and its Boca Raton sales office delivered several boxes of dried and canned goods to Boca Helping Hands.

Lang also sponsored the hot meals service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Delray Beach, the charity partner for the Socially Distanced Supper Club.

Send business news to Christine Davis at cdavis9797@gmail.com.

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