Page 18 - 2022 Chester County Guide & CCCBI Membership Directory
P. 18

 Chester County Businesses, Residents Recall Stories of the Pandemic
COVID has been the biggest disruption to local economies in living memory. Amid massive uncertainty, shutdowns and supply-chain challenges, Chester County businesses needed help from community stakeholders — including the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry (CCCBI). Here, Chamber members, citizens and nonprofits share their stories of COVID survival.
Up until a few years ago, Bob Rafetto owned three restaurants: the Dilworthtown Inn, Blue Pear Bistro and the Inn Keeper’s Kitchen. But as fate would have it, he sold them six weeks before the pandemic hit.
And so, instead of scrambling to ensure the survival of his own hospitality business, Rafetto stepped up to help others in the industry get through COVID.
“I worked with Restore Chester County, which was a program put together by the County Commissioners to reach out to 21 different industry groups and keep businesses open,” Rafetto said. He worked in the outreach group for restaurants, where he took the time to scour the latest CDC guidance as well as the news releases being published by Governor Tom Wolf’s office and condense the information for business owners struggling to keep up.
“I also walked through various Chester County towns, from Phoenixville to Exton to Downingtown, telling [restaurant owners] the rules — not to enforce them, but just saying here’s the rules and here are some tools and things you might not have considered,” Rafetto said.
One of the most difficult parts was fielding phone calls from desperate restaurant owners. “I had calls saying, ‘If I close down,
I’ll lose my family,’” he said. “Others wanted to know what to do if they had a staff member with COVID.” Still other calls came in from political leaders across the county and state, asking Rafetto for input on various issues from the restaurant community’s perspective.
The Chamber was also supportive of his efforts. Former Chamber President Guy Ciarrocchi “even put together a Zoom webinar that we did for 70 restaurateurs in the early stages of the pandemic,” Rafetto said.
In recognition of Rafetto’s work on behalf of Chester County businesses, CCCBI named him a Citizen of the Year in 2021. (He shared the award with fellow restaurateur Dave Magrogan who “took more of the political angle in dealing with legislators, whereas I took more of a feet-on-the-street approach,” Rafetto said.)
Even as restaurants have reopened, Rafetto is still continuing his advocacy work. As a co-chair of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, his next goals include alleviating the COVID- induced labor shortage in the hospitality industry and placing doses of NARCAN (the nasal spray that can treat opioid overdoses) at restaurants and hotels.
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