The Syosset Woodbury Chamber of Commerce has responded to many inquiries from local merchants and business owners in recent weeks as the Coronavirus pandemic has forced so many to close, cut hours and staff and virtually cease operation. Chamber President Maureen Nickel, longtime Woodbury resident and owner of BrightStar Home Health Care, offered the following commentary last week in an interview with the Advance & News-Journal about the state of local commerce:
“Small businesses are vital to our nation’s economy – in every state, in every community, small business owners contribute to making the U.S. the strongest economic system in the world. As the owner of BrightStar Homecare, I am privileged to continue to operate and help our clients through this difficult time by taking care of their health care needs. And the Syosset Woodbury Chamber is equally committed to helping small businesses in any way we can. We are sharing our social media and email resources with our membership by asking them to send us information about their businesses including their ads or any special offers they would like us to publicize to our members and the public at large.”.
Syosset Woodbury Chamber members’ ads/announcements can be submitted to info@Syossetchamber.com.
“We encourage everyone to visit the Syosset Chamber Facebook page often and support our local businesses. We also encourage everyone to purchase gift cards from these local businesses for use at a future time,” Nickel advises. Meanwhile the U.S. Small Business Association announces assistance to businesses, including guaranteeing a portion of a disaster relief loan, the SBA helps small businesses obtain loans from private banks when they otherwise may be denied funding.
The Chamber of Commerce, as much of the region is currently doing, awaits Federal Government accord and corresponding action to enact new federal legislation and relief.
“This has always been an SBA guideline in response to any types of disaster, but what would be new is the legislation that our federal government is working on right now. I am also following what New York State intends to do,” she said.
Chamber board member, Networking & Membership Committee Chairman Alan I. Goldberg, president of Water Solutions of Long Island and CardWorks Merchant Services believes that the Coronavirus pandemic impacting New York and Long Island business circles have led to a point where individuals “can instead of working in their business, work on your business.”
“People need to actually pick up the phone. A perfect example is for a new Chamber who just joined the other day, and I left a voicemail, as per normal connections. Given the situation around Coronavirus and working remotely this becomes more of the focus — the new business spent 45 minutes on the phone with me, doing kind of a 1-to-1 meeting. It was all the regular networking and event information — What do you do? What interests you in joining the Chamber? How can I help you and how can you help me? Instead of physically going out to meet new people and connect, learn about services and people, now’s a chance to take initiative and pick up your phone,” Goldberg commented.
Despite shutdowns and social distancing required in response to the pandemic, Goldberg continues to hold virtual and teleconference meetings about the 2020 Syosset Street Fair, which maintains a date of Sunday, October 4 for its traditional Jackson Avenue stretch filled with activities, decor and vendors in Syosset’s downtown. He advises to take a look at potential clients or someone you have met in a meeting prior to now, and see ways of speaking with them that can develop as time and priorities have shifted to some degree.
Goldberg finds that taking a few minutes to call someone he’s otherwise not in touch with weekly has become “the new gain.”
“It is less of a cold-call now. It has become more and more important to ‘scroll’ contacts or through the rolodex and just pick up your phone. Maybe there’s a need now that four months ago, there wasn’t. You can revisit ‘potentials’ and if nothing else the basics of asking if there may be ways, business to business to help each other, or if there are other ideas they are working on — it may help you, it may help the other guy or both, Goldberg noted.
Re-evaluation of social media is a not a new, but a renewed focus area for regional companies.He says with many people at reduced capacity and new needs emerging in the market, this represents an opportune time to get smarter, faster and more efficient while upskilling yourself or the company as a whole, “with multiple things you know you should have implemented but now you’re forced to do them because you can’t do things the way you had been doing them.”
“All you’ve got is time at this point. We wake up and sometimes the day is thrown off, as you can’t hop in the car and have meetings with three clients anymore. You need to look at your laptop or phone and check on old emails, see who you have not touched base with in some time. The last time you spoke to them may have been six months ago, and for many reasons you had not followed up with them since. Let’s see where they are at and if there is a new opportunity for you,” he advised.
The Long Island BNI Networking group that Goldberg normally participates in planned moving to the Zoom virtual meeting format. “It is certainly a move to virtual meetings that we may have to consider at the Chamber, using Zoom or any environment to log in for meetings,” he said.
Goldberg is also Networking Committee Chair for the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce and beginning with the Wednesday April 15 P.O.B. Membership meeting, their meetings and events will be held via Zoom. POB Chamber President Andrew Lamkin, principal of Andrew Lamkin P.C. law firm, notes that the featured speaker for April’s meeting is Beth Granger, social media consultant and an expert in digital media.
“We have to adapt, at least in the short-run. This is not a good time for people who have just started a business or are thinking about starting up businesses. But with existing businesses, a big part of all the intent behind the Chamber and gatherings is the networking aspect, and the difference now can be following up 1-to-1 without physically meeting each other in any location,” Goldberg noted.
One resourceful connection is Syosset resident and tech consultant Wendy Weiss of TechTime, who has had to stop meeting clients 1-on-1 for their tutorials on learning about new devices. The shift to remote sessions came naturally and several clients learned to adapt to Zoom, GoToMeeting or Facetime quickly through her assistance.
“As you know I meet with individuals and conduct classes teaching the modern world of technology. With video conferencing tools, like Zoom, it’s allowing individuals to meet with me and work together productively “face-to-face” when meeting in-person isn’t possible. This makes meeting remotely much more human, which is essential in order to help my clients feel and stay connected,” Weiss commented for the Advance and News-Journal.
All Syosset Woodbury Chamber activities for March and April, at least as of now, have been put on hold. Area businesses have hired cleaning crews to sanitize locations, disinfect and wipe down all door knobs, desk phones, tablets, and countertops — according to Goldberg, “up to every two hours.”
Restaurants in the New York suburbs are among the hardest hit, without the steady traffic of reservations and less demand for take-out than a city restaurant normally has, pre COVID-19. Chamber members now offering take-out and delivery deals include George White restaurant, Mara’s Southern Kitchen and Hurricane Grill & Wings — bar drinks and cocktails remain available to-go as long as they’re part of a food order.
Goldberg recently stopped by a local catering place that normally has food items for sale and lunches for customers ready-to-go, but operations can’t continue as normal: people are not stopping in hungry for a meal. Orders are not coming through as they often would because the caterer routinely serves for Long Island school events, meetings and corporations.
“As Alice Cooper (heavy rock band) sang ‘Schools out for summer, Schools out forever’ but you can’t cater to schools or events when they aren’t operating. Every restaurant and coffeehouse is taking a beating — nobody can go out and sit somewhere,” he said.
Another Chamber board member, longtime Syosset resident Amanda Johnson of Balloons by Amanda, is taking the approach to let clients know “postpone and don’t cancel” any important celebrations and occasions; as of March 24 Balloons by Amanda was offering a new “Hands-Free Delivery” service given the social distancing and precautions during efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We are currently offering Hands Free Delivery of Spirit Sticks and Bouquets…We text you before we arrive. We install the display and/or drop your bagged bouquet at your front door. Next, we send you a picture when we are off property — you enjoy your balloons!!!” Johnson posted on her website. She has also added a “COVID-19 and Your Party: What you need to Know” section on the site to advise clients. Goldberg says all the party and event planners as well as travel agencies are getting hard-hit because groups of people are not permitted to congregate, and engagements booked for spring are mostly cancelled already.
Several businesses are in survival mode and looking at the big picture as of late March, given uncertainty with shutdowns and “essential-business only” policies for operation.
“For myself I am getting hammered with my businesses as I am having an inability to install water coolers that I have had deals signed for. For example to put one in for a Manhattan office last Thursday, we went to verify for delivery and we were told the company would be closed for an indeterminate amount of time. Now I have nothing to do with the product for them because their office is closed….until whenever. With the (credit) Cardworks business, my entire revenue is based on people doing business. All my restaurant clients are hammered this month and my retail people are shuttered — people also can’t fulfill their orders because they can’t get any suppliers. There are certain products that local vitamin stores can’t get now including zinc lozenges and things with elderberry — anything for the immune system,” Goldberg said.
As a businessman who’s often out at meetings with prospective customers and partners or stopping by his regular clients, Goldberg has cut down on his route, with attention to new protocols at several places. He says many times he’s learning about how people need to use protective gloves and other materials in retail stores and other service companies, however less often with masks to cover their faces.
“From what I have seen there were social distancing precautions in practice, including at our local banks, hardware stores, markets and offices. A lot of businesses are reducing their hours and instead of banks staying open until 5 or 6 p.m. they now stay open up to 3 p.m.,” Goldberg said.
Syosset Woodbury Chamber members are connecting to offer “Member to Member” services during the Coronavirus pandemic’s impacts on the New York region. One Chamber member business, All-Dry USA, is promoting its specialization in deep-cleaning and medical grade decontamination. Often at Syosset Woodbury Chamber meetings and networking events, All-Dry USA is represented by business development and territory manager Sarah Miller.
Goldberg noted how many companies are branching out, adapting to rough times and the need for new services, and — in a hurry — people are getting involved with services and goods that have not been their primary business. Miller noted the same in announcing how All Dry USA has been working tirelessly to keep first responders and the communities they serve safe.
“Fire/police/EMS ambulances have a high risk for the spread of COVID-19 during this global crisis, but they also serve as a place for safety/sanctuary when you’re worrisome & on your way to a hospital for treatment. We make sure to use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered Steramist solution to completely decontaminate all surfaces outside & within each emergency service vehicle, to ensure the health and safety of those operating them, as well as the patients being transported within them!” Miller posted online this week.
On March 18, Syosset Woodbury Chamber members were emailed a “COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey” by Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker. Nickel explains this as a way information on businesses requiring assistance can be tracked and forwarded to the appropriate government agencies.
“The survey asks small business owners specific questions as to how they are business has been impacted during this critical time. There is also information from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran entitled, “tips for small businesses“ that all small business owners should review.”
“And most importantly as a Chamber, as a community, we pray that this entire health crisis and the severe impact it has had on our businesses will be temporary and we will soon return to a life of normalcy enjoying all that our Syosset Woodbury community has to offer,” she said.