When the owners of Olive & Henry Fine Foods planned the grand opening of their Cheshire store, there’s no way they could have ever been prepared for what was about to happen.
On March 1 of 2020, the world looked much like it always had. By March 20, the day on which Olive & Henry opened to the public, everything had already been turned upside-down.
We are still waiting for things to go right side up once again.
Starting a new business comes with all kinds of trials and struggles and unknowns. Most don’t succeed. Such dreams can be years in the making, but can fall apart within only a few months.
But Olive & Henry was facing something different. No one knew exactly how to navigate a pandemic, let alone do so while establishing a customer base and a reputation in the community. As much as they hoped to remain positive, there’s no doubt that the spring of last year must have been a tense time for the new owners … as it was for everyone.
Now, 12 months into the pandemic, Olive & Henry has every right to celebrate. They’ve done well. They’ve found a way to not just survive but to succeed.
They appear well situated to come out of this pandemic in position to thrive.
That seems to be true of most Cheshire businesses, and they deserve our applause. But more than that, they deserve patronage.
What the pandemic has taught us is that when the going gets tough, people often get tougher. Yes, the government did its part in providing some much-needed economic relief, and local public health officials aided establishments in their efforts to comply with new mitigation protocols. But it was left to business owners to rework their own strategies for success virtually on the fly.
There were no manuals to consult. No government official could provide a road map to business success during a pandemic. Owners were told to meet certain standards for assistance, comply with new safety measures, and then figure it out on their own.
While this week The Herald focused its attention on the one-year anniversary of a business born into a pandemic, their story of perseverance is common to many. Faced with a terribly uncertain future and a world that was in constant chaos, adaptation was key.
There was no time to sit around feeling sorry for oneself. There was little to be gained by fixating on all the things businesses were suddenly not allowed to do.
Survival meant working within the confines of difficult new rules, and to the credit of almost all in town, they were able to do just that.
However, the difficult times are not over. Yes, news of the state easing safety measures and allowing for a more open way of doing business likely be welcomed by all. But even when all the restrictions are lifted, challenges will remain.
As we approach the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and as all signs begin to mercifully point to the end of this crisis on the horizon, it’s important to remember that the need to “shop local” will remain. Just because capacity limitations have been lifted or other restrictions are phased out doesn’t mean the remnants of living under the cloud of a pandemic will suddenly evaporate.
So as we all begin to venture back out into the world, cautious but excited to return to something approximating our pre-2020 lives, make sure to stay focused on supporting local businesses. Many now offer services that make it even easier and more convenient to “shop local,” as some things, such as curbside pickup, are likely to become fixtures well into the future.
We may be coming to the end of the pandemic, but the work of building a post-pandemic world will then commence. Making sure local businesses continue to have the support of their communities will be a big part of that project.