Page 19 - 2022 Chester County Guide & CCCBI Membership Directory
P. 19

In March of 2020, Debi Friedmann got the news that her business would be considered unessential and would have to close. “We
were in shock and had no plan,” she said. “Because there was so much uncertainty, we decided to furlough our employees and encouraged them to file for unemployment immediately. Two
days later, our paper supplier texted us and said that the Governor had changed the rules and that printing companies were now considered essential. That was great, but didn’t do much good when the majority of our customer base were shut down.”
One problem: Much of Blue Dog’s business came from events. “We watched as one by one, every single upcoming event was canceled,” Friedmann said. The company’s retail customers, such as salons
and restaurants, were forced to close. Other customers, like West Chester University and local sports teams, also had been thrown into uncertainty.
Eventually, Blue Dog was able to obtain a PPP loan and bring its employees back virtually. That’s when the company got creative.
“We kept seeing and hearing about high school and college seniors who weren’t going to have a graduation ceremony or a celebratory party,” Friedmann said. “Our creative team came up with the Grad Lawn Takeover, which we were able to design, print and have shipped directly to homes to avoid contact.”
Around the same time, memes started to pop up that poked
fun at the amount of alcohol people were drinking during the COVID shutdown. “So we designed wine glasses and pint glasses encouraging people to support local business while living on #covid19time,” Friedmann said. “Our glass supplier is located in Pennsylvania and they were considered unessential, so we ordered from a company in Maryland and I drove down to pick up the glasses.”
Today, Blue Dog is still facing major supply chain disruptions involving the availability of paper, envelopes, apparel and promotional items, but the company has kept going in the face of that adversity.
“While we were not CCCBI members at the beginning of the pandemic, we were members of three other local chambers
and saw the unification of all Chester County chambers in their efforts to do what they could for the business community and members,” Friedmann said. “CCCBI’s leadership put pressure on the government and strongly backed small businesses. The results from that leadership were evident and they are what encouraged us to become CCCBI members this year.”
While Abel Brothers Towing was named an essential business and therefore allowed to remain open, it faced other challenges to its operations.
“How could we remain open and continue to pay our employees when there were no vehicles on the road to provide services to?” said President Deb Abel. “It was like a ghost town out there. We also had to create safety procedures specific to the pandemic, which was extremely difficult considering we often had to have customers riding with our employees in the trucks and the information available on COVID was changing every few days.”
Considering those difficulties, there was no way to keep Abel Brothers Towing profitable. “It was all about figuring out how to stop the bleeding and going into survival mode at that point,” Abel said. “We cut as many costs as possible, by doing things like taking vehicles off the road that we were not being used, parking them and canceling the insurance, canceling things like landscaping services and cutting the grass ourselves. ... It was a very tough time. We were fortunate enough to have some cushion to fall back on, but the uncertainty of how long it would all go on for made it very scary to say the least. I also couldn’t stop thinking about all of the businesses out there that didn’t have savings to get them through. We tried to help by donating what we could to all the different community charitable efforts that were taking place.”
During this difficult time, Abel said, “the Chamber was a great resource for small businesses to keep up on the massive amount of information being pushed out by federal, state, county and local levels of government. There was just so much we needed to know as far as compliance, financial help, and health and safety. It was overwhelming and it became a full-time job for me as a business owner.”
The Chamber was also helpful by keeping up a constant dialogue between business and the government, Abel said. “The past President, Guy Ciarrocchi, would hold Zoom discussions with business leaders and county officials to advocate for government officials to let businesses reopen with the right safety mechanisms in place. He would take to the airwaves to talk to anyone who would listen on our behalf. I was truly thankful for his efforts and thankful for being part of the Chamber. It was one of the best support systems we had.”
“The Chamber was a great resource for small businesses to keep up on the massive amount of information being pushed out by federal, state, county and local levels of government.” 17

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