Karl Fisher was heading into a 10th year last March and gearing up for another spring at Alabaster Coffee in downtown Williamsport when a global virus struck that ground his coffee business to a halt.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses and how they are emerging from the slowdowns and shut downs was the focus of the 135th annual meeting of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
The event, held at Bald Birds Brewing Co. 200 Shaffer Lane in Jersey Shore, featured Fisher and other small business entrepreneurs and owners speaking on a video created by Impact Advertising.
Their stories detailed resilience and adaptation through the crisis and were reason for hope heading into another year with the virus, but with vaccines and therapies that might lead to a return to near normalcy.
Before they spoke “This is My Fight Song” played and afterwards “Don’t Stop Thinking About
“I love doing business in Williamsport,” Fisher said, adding the online option for serving customers coffee and selling them beans at the shop at 400 Pine St. was what “carried us through.”
That, and coffee subscriptions, and virtual tips from customers, he said.
Now, as the coffee shop reopens with social distancing, Fisher said he is hopeful the loyal customer base will return in full.
For Salon Magnolias, 1322 W. Fourth St., Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St. and Franco’s Lounge, 12 W. Fourth St., the chamber’s staff and their ability to connect the managers and owners to personal payroll protection loans at area banks were their keys to surviving the worst the disease brought.
That and community support, according to Maria and Fred Danielle, owners of Franco’s Lounge, which has been in business since 1984.
“You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back up,” Fred Danielle, chef and owner, said.
Jody Rogers, owner of Rogers Uniform, 700 W. Third St., said he was “embarassed and frustrated” by having to put off loyal customers and layoffs of employees.
He said the chamber listened and helped his business to adapt to a new way of living and operating.
Dave Palski of Shore Diner 1211 Allegheny St., in Jersey Shore said he had tons of inventory that was given to the community, including Jersey Shore Hospital and area police and emergency management agency personnel.
He,too, credited the chamber for its assistance.
Online orders, delivery and take-out service helped Bullfrog sustain itself, said Steve and Alicia Koch, owners.
“We even had free beer for two months,” he said.
The couple credited Jason Fink, CEO of the chamber and its president, for helping the business and others in the city and Lycoming County bear the brunt of viral impact.
Larry Allison Jr., chairman of the chamber board of directors, said the key for businesses will be to remain safe and healthy.
Allison thanked all of the board members, the executive committee and committee chairs and wished them well as he did all of guests at the breakfast.
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