Rock Solid Stories
The pandemic and its economic fallout no doubt had a profound impact on Morro Bay's business community. During the height of the pandemic hotel occupancy rates for example, were as low as 16%. Which believe us, is not normal for coastal California. However, as we steadily easy back to "normal" there are businesses led by inspiring humans who have gone above and beyond during a time of crisis. More for their employees, their clients, their tenants and their community. While we acknowledge that it’s not all sunshine and roses right now, we would be remiss if we didn’t take the time to share positive news about how Chamber members are adapting their businesses and making a difference in our community. These are their #RockSolidTogether stories. Morro Bay is back in 2021 and better than ever!
Empty grocery shelves and sold out essentials have provided a seemingly endless source for memes, advertising schemes and Saturday Night Live coronavirus parodies. Now, businesses are feeling the pressure as they seek to acquire sought after essentials while opening their doors to customers after a lengthy stay-at-home mandate. In an effort to support the local business community, the service organization, Rotary Club of Morro Bay, has stepped up to provide essentials to those in need.
Newly appointed leadership at the Rotary Club, President-Elect Jeff Jones and President-Elect Nominee Tim Olivas, suggested implementing the hand sanitizer program to help Morro Bay businesses keep their employees and customers safe. All Morro Bay businesses with offices, storefronts and restaurants are being gifted a bottle of the hand sanitizer along with a thank you for their support during the club’s 75-year tenure.
“We were pleased to source the sanitizer locally, thus, helping two more small businesses, which have manufactured the product,” said Jones. The decorative 8-oz. bottle of “Be Well Hand Sanitizer” is manufactured by the Fable Soap Company of Los Osos, working with the Bethel Rd Distillery of Templeton.
Member Judy Salamacha was tagged as distribution manager for the project. “My husband Bob and I delivered the first twelve bottles on a Sunday in early April to test out the program. Businesses were so grateful to receive the sanitizer, surprised it was a gift and loved the product. It was easy to find members to join in on the delivery process.”
To date, Jeff Jones, Tim Olivas, John Weiss, Jude Long, Elsie Casida, Mike Pond, Nancy Ford-Retchless, and Lorraine Sterkel joined the project delivery team. Nearly 250 bottles have gone out to Morro Bay businesses. President Jones told members at a recent Zoom general meeting, “We aren’t finished with this project yet! We need to thank Fable Soap Company for donating an additional 24 bottles of sanitizer and 50 bottles of hand lotion for the organization to share with businesses.”
The David Ross family is what we’d call legacy Morro Bay. The Ross family has roots in Estero Bay going back to the 1950’s, where they built a name for themselves in the hospitality and fishing industries here on the Central Coast of California. Today, their legacy lives on in one of the most recognizable businesses on the Embarcadero – Carousel Taffy.
Carousel Taffy is managed locally by Sam Ross and his brother Bryan and sister Deana help with business matters remotely. Their father, David, was the original owner of this magical candy shop until he passed away two years ago. The business was named after his love of boardwalks and carousel rides and was established as one of the first tenants of the waterfront boat yard.
Given the family has been in Morro Bay for decades, David, his siblings and his children all have strong ties to Morro Bay High School (MBHS). In fact, David was a student in the first graduating senior class of MBHS.
“We wanted to check in to see if there was something that we could do to support graduating seniors,” said Deana Katajima, co-owner of Carousel Taffy. “We feel blessed to be able to donate 250 bags of MBHS-themed candies to be distributed to seniors picking up their diplomas during their drive thru ceremony, as well as MBHS staff.”
Supporting MBHS during this challenging time was a bit of a no-brainer for Carousel Taffy. After all, they’ve supported the school with donations for sports and ceremonies in the past and were eager to give the gift of sweets to students who have worked so hard.
Carousel Taffy is now open for curbside pickup and is taking additional safety precautions for their employees and customers. Locals get a 15% discount and your orders can be delivered at the curb. Support this local confection purveyor and know your candies come from a family with a sweet spot for Morro Bay.
On the week of March 9th the office of Engle and Associates Insurance Brokers made moves they’ve never done in their 40 years in business in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. First, they stopped doing face-to face-meetings with customers, which was a change from their busy flow of people seeking human connection while doing business. Next, after watching COVID-19 devastate countries and cities globally, they saw the writing on the wall and started working on plans to move the company’s 13 employees to work remotely from home. In preparation, the management team surveyed employees to better understand their internet connections and hardware available so they could make necessary purchases to ensure there would be a smooth transition.
“We gave employees the option to work from home before the State orders came down on the March 19th,” said Jayne Engle Allen, owner of Engle and Associates. “The first high-risk person moved offsite on the 16th and by the end of the week everyone was working from home.”
Luckily, Engle and Associates had recently implemented a web-based agency management system in January that allowed for a bit smoother transition, except for the fact that the system was new, and users were still learning how to navigate it. Jayne also attributes their partnership with SLO-based company iTech to helping them get set up quickly.
Given this was the first time the company had moved employees offsite, they had to work with their HR and Legal teams create a temporary work from home policy to reflect their new arrangements. The key word being “temporary” – as Jayne hopes the team can resume their in-person interactions with customers once it’s safe to do so again.
Until then, the team at Engle and Associates wants the public to know that they’re open for business and here to help! And as a testament to their dedication to the community they serve, they have been working with existing clients whose businesses have been shut down and lowering premiums when possible.
Non-essential isn’t an adjective SanDee Winn ever thought she’d hear used to describe her business. In fact, she still questions the validity of grouping a wellness center that offers holistic therapies in the same category as nail salons, rather than with health services.
SanDee’s business, Morro Bay Massage and Wellness Center, closed up shop mid-March after the California Massage Therapy Council sent out warnings to licensed therapists that if they were caught providing services during COVID-19 quarantine that they would lose their license and be reported to authorities. Understandably, some holistic health providers assumed that their services were essential, since many customers relied on them for mobility and quality of life.
As a sole proprietor who traditionally hadn’t been able to receive unemployment, SanDee went to work at the local Miner’s Ace Hardware. Although SanDee had done cashier work earlier in life, this time has been very different. While wearing a mask for her entire shift, she tries to ease the worry of shoppers as they try to navigate the new normal. As a healer, this comes natural to SanDee and she does her best to let people know that she understands what they are going through.
“At first I was having a hard time holding it together since I had already lost a mortgage business in 2008 that I spent a decade building and have been worried about losing a second business,” said SanDee Winn. “Now I focus on breathing techniques, I started a garden in my yard, carry Rescue Remedy in my pocket and go for long walks on the beach with my dog.” It turns out that the work she is doing at Miner’s is also helping keep her spirits high since she is able to get out of the house and interact with people on a regular basis.
Luckily there have been some blessings granted for SanDee and Morro Bay Massage and Wellness lately. When trying to pay her rent for the shop her landlord wouldn’t take her check, telling her not to worry about it right now. She’s recently received notification that she has received some PPP funding, is now eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance and her loyal local clients have been purchasing gift certificates and massage packages from her online.
Today, SanDee is focusing on the future and is making plans for the Center’s reopening which she is hoping will be in June. “I plan on doing a two-stage reopening once state mandates are lifted. I think opening to locals first is a good way to support those who have been supporting us,” said SanDee. “I’ll be testing clients before they come in the room and will clearly communicating new safety protocols, including the need to have clients wash hands upon entry and no unnecessary visiting in the shop, through emails and with signage at the Center.”
Owners Shari and Karen opened their doors to a newly remodeled Skippers Brew Coffee House on the Embarcadero in late November, just over three months before COVID-19 stay at home orders were handed down from the State of California. Although their business has been able to operate at a limited capacity for takeout, without people visiting town or employees grabbing a cup of joe before work, business has been minimal.
Without a guaranteed paycheck, both Shari and Karen have picked up second jobs at businesses deemed essential and have limited their hours to Friday through Sunday mornings at the Coffee House. Juggling jobs and working non-traditional hours have led to sleepless nights and increased stress for the couple. However, that hasn’t stopped them from thinking about how they could create some much-needed positivity during a challenging time for many.
“When the world turned upside down, we wanted to find some way to engage our community and provide an opportunity for people to support others,” said Shari Rubino, owner of Skippers Brew. “That’s why we created the Skip it Forward Program.”
The Skip It Forward initiative allows people to prepay for a coffee for a stranger. They keep a board with free coffee coupons that others have paid for and anyone who needs coffee can come in and take one of the prepaid coffee notes to “pay” for their beverage. So far, they have raised nearly $500 to support the initiative!
While doing what they can to make ends meet and support their community, they are also seizing on the opportunity to put some sweat equity into their homey little shop. They’ve been remodeling their apparel wall, adding new equipment, testing new drink recipes and have established a new partnership for their baked goods that will be debuting this weekend.
The COVID-19 crisis has left a lot of business owners in limbo of receiving unemployment benefits and unable to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding. Without the future guaranteed, many business owners have transitioned into survival mode and have secured additional jobs to help them get by.
Lynsey Hansen is a Certified Massage Therapist in Morro Bay who has been resourceful in finding additional work while she waits for the approval to operate her business again. It looks like it may be a while still, as the Governor’s plan has the personal care industry delayed in opening compared to the retail, restaurant and gyms.
Luckily, Lynsey was able to quickly get some work with the Garden House, an elder care and dementia living facility in Morro Bay, to provide housekeeping and shopping services. Before the pandemic Lynsey worked residents and employees as a massage therapist; the latter of which was through their employee wellness program. However, she has been unable to provide those services since the closing of non-essential businesses.
“The extra safety precautions taken to protect residents are rigorous,” said Lynsey. “Since family members have been unable to come and visit their relatives at the facility, I do my best to spend time talking to (albeit in a mask) and doing activities with the residents when I am done with my workload.”
Lynsey has also picked up work being a personal assistant for someone who needs help in their home and running errands three to four times a week. And while she has been thankful to have work, she is also running out of steam since she’s working twice as hard to make half as much. All while in a global pandemic.
In times of crisis, there are people who rise to the top to take care of our wellbeing. Some are called into action to share with us new workouts and recipes to keep our body in shape and others are being driven to support our mental wellbeing, with meditations and coaching. These people have been literal life savers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Audrie Marie is the website manager for Morro Bay Garden and a digital marketing consultant for Beads by the Bay, located in downtown Morro Bay. As non-essential businesses, the storefronts have been closed since mid-March and Audrie has therefore been out of work.
During this period Audrie has been using her training as a certified holistic coach and healer to support the community by offering her favorite resources for managing high anxiety during these uncertain times. This includes conducting free daily Facebook Live sessions where she teaches viewers everything from EFT Tapping therapy to essential oils.
“We are in the middle of a collectively stressful time,” said Audrie Marie. “If people find themselves struggling with high anxiety right now, that is a perfectly natural reaction to have when we’re in a global crisis. There is nothing ‘wrong with them’ and there are many simple resources that can help, starting with being kind and gentle with themselves if they are going through it.”
Audrie has leveraged her downtime to continue building towards her dream of working for herself full-time. Her company, she ROSE journey, is an online business where she takes the tech and stress out of helping women entrepreneurs pivot their business quickly to be able to serve their customers online. You could say she has combined her love for helping others and her talent for marketing into one platform.
In order to help businesses in the community with shifting marketing needs, she ROSE journey is offering a free 5-day business website pivot challenge, happening May 6-10. Sign up here: https://discover.sherosejourney.com/join-challenge/
The Masterpiece Hotel in Morro Bay is an icon on Main Street heading into downtown and has been one of the few hotels with cars still in their parking lot. At the request of the City of Morro Bay, hotels have been asked to limit promotions brining travelers into the area from out of town in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the region. Rather than turning off the lights and boarding up the newly renovated hotel, Masterpiece has been offering low rates to locals who need somewhere to shelter in place.
“We understand that not everybody has a home to go to and that there are people who need somewhere to stay while family members ride out sicknesses,” said Amber Clark, general manager. “We are doing what we can to support our community and local businesses, while maintaining the CDC’s protocols to ensure the safety of our guests.”
The hotel regularly promotes local restaurants on social media, shares the up-to-date list of available takeout and delivery options with guests, and has modified their services to accommodate the new regulations.
Morro Bay’s only Certified Green Business, All Good, has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in ways most companies in the area haven’t been. All Good is an organic and natural personal care company that believes in using business as a force for good. They produce a litany of personal care products, from reef-friendly mineral sunscreen to their ever-popular All Good Goop, which you can slather on just about anything and make it better. The company also produces hand sanitizer, which as you can imagine, has been flying off of the shelves for the last month.
Now that hand sanitizers have become a hot commodity, so have the bottles they are sold in. This local B-Corp sources all of their materials domestically and their supply chain has suddenly seen an influx in demand since many companies who were getting products from China, are now getting their raw materials from the U.S. The company is doing their best to be nimble in these unprecedented times, all while maintaining their commitment to making products that adhere to their restorative and responsible business practices.
All Good is a company whose commitment to their community and the planet is the driving force behind their success. “Once we restock our supply, we aim to allocate hand sanitizer to those in need in the community, including emergency workers, essential businesses and vulnerable communities.” said Lindsey Bolton, sales and marketing coordinator for All Good.
Even more remarkably, the company of 24 employees has taken their already stellar reputation as a compassionate employer to the next level. They’ve adopted a buddy system, where each employee communicates on a daily basis with their buddy, another All Good employee or contractor, to check in on their well-being. At a time when most are working from home and have limited interaction with others, this has become a potentially life-saving program for those struggling with mental health during the pandemic.
Employees are also treated to a CSA box from the owner’s farm, filled with organic fruits and vegetables each month, to help with their physical well-being. This act of kindness reminds employees that they are cared for and helps tie them back to the company’s mission.
We look forward to learning more from this authentic, ethical and purpose-driven company as we all aspire to adopt new ways to support one another in our business community.
The owner of Mike’s Barber Shop is a man of many names, but is mostly known as Barber Jon. Jon started working at Mike’s in 2010 and bought the shop in 2012, where he now has ten barbers who lease chair space from him between his Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo locations. At one time, Jon owned four barber shops in the county and during that period accumulated a lot of gear.
When the County classified barbers and salons as non-essential businesses, Jon shuttered his doors and cancelled appointments. Within no time, he was being contacted by desperate customers who needed haircuts. Abiding by the state and county health guidelines meant not being in contact with clients, even if that meant turning down exorbitant amounts of cash (he was offered anywhere from $100 to $1020 to perform a haircut during the quarantine!)
Jon decided to take another approach to helping his customers. He gathered, fixed and sanitized his extra equipment so he could sell or borrow kits to those in need. Clients text Barber Jon, who then assembles a kit based on their needs and sets it on the truck fender in his driveway to facilitate a contactless pick up. So far, he has provided over 20 kits at no charge to people willing to take a crack at facilitating a home haircut.
How do the cuts turn out? Clients often send him before and after photos – and he says most end up just shaving it all off. After all, cutting hair is an art and most people aren’t both double jointed and ambidextrous.
As a business owner and landlord, he has waived booth rental fees for his barbers. He understands that they are hurting too. During the last month, Barber Jon has decided to make the best use of his empty shops and is focusing on getting them in tip-top shape for when they reopen.
“I normally work 80 hours a week. This is a good time to do all of those things that are on your list to be productive. I decided to detail and do the little repairs at the barbershop, which has been open since 1941,” said Jon Elliott, owner of Mike’s Barber Shop in Morro Bay. “It’s a good time to prioritize those other things now, such as cleaning, repairing and marketing. Everyone has a different list of things that are needed. As long as it doesn’t involve contact with other people – my recommendation to other non-essential businesses is to be productive and use this time to get organized in order to benefit your business in the long run.”
A special thanks to Jon and other Morro Bay Businesses who are coming together for the community – a true demonstration of us being #RockSolidTogether.