You’ve heard the anxious refrain emanating from the back seat, “are we there yet?” This time it’s coming from hopeful business owners throughout Cornwall; have we rounded the corner and will life and business return to pre-pandemic “normal” levels? I asked many of our local merchants and the responses varied widely.
Ron Goldstein, manager of Iron Bank in Cornwall Bridge has dealt with lobby closures, introduced plexiglass barriers and hand sanitation stations along with mask-wearing protocols. “We implemented tools such as Zoom and Docusign to facilitate banking while respecting our clients safety and comfort,” Ron told me. He sees the branch in Cornwall Bridge allowing banking both in person and remotely going forward. “We see an optimistic future with more residents in town and a newfound appreciation for rural living,” he added.
Across the street at Housatonic River Outfitters owner Harold McMillan says he did very well during the past year. “We have been and remain very busy, even turning away customers for river trips,” he offered. Looking into his crystal ball, he foresees a future similar to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York. “After people go back to work things will cool off, but it’s been one of our best years ever,” he concluded.
Just down route 7 the picture is not as rosy for Natu Patel at The Hitching Post motel. His business remains slow, off some 80% from normal he estimates. He cites the continued closing of local attractions like Lime Rock as well as local schools as the reasons. “Once things get back to normal with weddings happening, hopefully our business will recover,” he told me.
Over in West Cornwall, Bianka Griggs at the Wish House is seeing an uptick in business with an infusion of younger people and their offspring. She has had to alter her buying to primarily online and is looking forward to getting back to in-person merchandising and trade shows which she calls, “essential to connectivity.” During the pandemic she has instituted what she refers to as “mini-fundraisers” for local not-for-profits and hopes to continue this practice of collaborating with local charities to raise awareness of their needs and services.
Janet Sanders’s 111 Group saw a 30% decline in business over the past year which she anticipated. “Clients delayed decisions, delayed launches, delayed everything,” she said. Now she says, clients are returning and she anticipates a busy year ahead. She made alterations to her workplace during the pandemic and expects to keep some of those changes in place going forward including flexible in-office hours and increased use of tools like Zoom and Slack for collaboration and communication.
The restaurant RSVP, nestled just behind the Wish House and The 111 Group has had a busy year. They moved tables onto their deck and operated at 50% capacity to ensure social distancing guidelines while opening for extra nights to accommodate customer demand. Co-owner Charles Cilona noted that diners felt comfortable and safe in their intimate setting. Going forward the continued demand for the creative cuisine cooked up by co-owner and chef Guy Birster anticipates a busy summer season.
I will be checking in on other business owners and operators and will report what I hear from them. If you have a story to tell, let us know so you can help us stay up to date on the rapidly changing landscape of business in Cornwall.
📷: Instagram @housatonicriveroutfitters
The Wish House, West Cornwall