‘We hope this ends quickly’: Northern Nevada businesses face uncertain future
RENO, Nev. — The global COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the world into an unprecedented era of public health concerns and uncertain economic pressures, and Northern Nevada is no different.
Impacts to the business community here have been massive, especially after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an order March 17 for all nonessential businesses to shut down for 30 days in an effort to limit the public’s exposure to the virus — something the governor doubled down with on March 20 with a firmer decree to businesses.
This week, NNBW reporter Kaleb M. Roedel reached out to various businesses across the region to get their initial reaction to the current state of affairs — and, what the future might hold.
Following are snippets from interviews conducted March 17-18:
Colin Smith, owner of Roundabout Grill
“The catering company and the restaurant company, both of those divisions have taken huge hits. We have downsized on both of those operations as far as how we’ve used our labor dollars and allocating our chefs. We have seen about $450,000 worth of catering cancellations, so it has been a significant amount. Everybody’s canceling for obvious reasons.
“We have seen the restaurant drop off by 50% prior to us closing (on March 16). We closed it so we could concentrate on our grab-and-go business and our meal delivery business. We’ve just been really challenged to come up with creative solutions to keep employees on the team and have their minimum salary requirements met and still get through this as a company with a balance sheet that’s not decimated.”
Anton Novak, owner of Rounds Bakery
“What we’ve essentially done is turn our restaurant into more of a deli section of a grocery store, where you can buy premade sandwiches, salads, mac and cheese bowls, everything, is made fresh that day. The packaged food can be taken to a kiosk where you can scan the item and swipe your card. So, we’re able to minimize the interaction to comply with social distancing and comply with basic keeping-your-hands-to-yourself policy.
“We’re ensuring the public the safety of our food and ensuring the safety of our employees by minimizing the interaction. I was very pleased with how quickly my staff and customers transitioned to it all and were very understanding of it. As food gets toward the end of the day, we pull all of the soon-to-be expire food and I deliver it to the Eddy House and Food Bank of Northern Nevada. We haven’t laid off anybody, but we have reduced hours across the board in every position. The restaurant is down easily 60-70% in sales.”
Trevor Leppek, co-owner Noble Pie Parlor, who was forced to delay the March 20 opening of his third location in South Reno
“During this time, we are hopeful to not have to change our staffing level and will do our best to keep our staff working at our open locations as long as it is deemed safe by officials. If we’re mandated to shutter we will divvy up all remaining perishable food items to our staff, secure our spaces and do what we need to do to get through this. The impact will be lasting but we’ll seek assistance from the SBA and whatever programs are available to us in order to get back to normal.
“Right now, we’re working around the clock to understand what is going on, what we need to do to adapt and how we can help our team in this crisis. Sales have dropped off a bit and with going to to-go or delivery only, our revenue will be significantly reduced. We will continue to do our best to weather the storm and keep pushing on.”
Ed Alexander, master grower and owner of SoL Cannabis
“From our standpoint, we have implemented additional sanitizing protocols. We’re basically sterilizing the entire facility once an hour and we’re encouraging people to utilize our online ordering and our delivery services. We are currently staffed the same as we’ve always been. We’re utilizing social distancing by spreading our budtenders out so people are not congested on top of each other, and we let people in on a controlled basis.
“We are open for business and trying to be a very upbeat, positive place for people. There’s enough doom and gloom out there. We’re taking this very seriously, but we’re trying to remain upbeat and positive. The message we are sending to all of our folks through love and compassion is that we’re going to get through this as a community.”
Paul Parrish, One Nevada Credit Union president and CEO
“With the closure of non-essential businesses, we anticipate a bit of a ‘long road’ for some of our members. However, One Nevada is in great shape and stands ready to help our members. For our members’ and team members’ safety, we began implementing virus mitigation protocols at all of our facilities very early. One thing, among many, that we have going for us, is that our members use our Online and Mobile Banking services at an incredibly high rate.
“As a result, they don’t need to visit our branches. Plus, our ATM network is among the largest in the State of Nevada, and our 24/7 service and convenience is definitely a strength. Our members have come to appreciate that, particularly in unprecedented times like these. Our folks are well-trained and incredibly diligent. We already have some team members working remotely, and we’re prepared to expand that strategy substantially, if needed.”
Rick Thomas, executive VP/Northern Nevada executive of Nevada State Bank
“Nevada State Bank continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and related items as it affects our clients and know that we are all in this together. We are committed to the health and safety of our clients and colleagues and we’re aware that many businesses will see some adverse impact as their customers change behavior and short-term spending as a result of the virus. The best thing a business can do is reach out to their banking partner early and frequently.
We strongly support the efforts to create social distance but still want to ensure our clients have ready access to their finances. We are making changes to the way we serve our clients until their safety can be assured. We are encouraging our clients to use drive-throughs, ATMs, online or mobile banking to access their accounts. These tools can serve their banking needs 24/7— with no person-to-person contact. If someone is not currently enrolled with online access, it only takes a few minutes. In the last 24 hours, we did implement changes in our branches, limiting service to drive-through or allowing clients one at a time into lobbies.
“We are listening to the experts, following the guidelines from the CDC and government, and doing what we can to provide peace of mind about client’s access to their finances during this unprecedented time.”
Jim Emme, CEO of NOW Foods
“The coronavirus has made a substantial, and unexpected, impact on many lives and here at NOW. We are currently seeing an unprecedented demand for our immune support products, and our teams are working around the clock to increase production and get these much-needed products to our customers.
“However, while our supply situation has not been able to fully meet current demand, we are in the position where we can be flexible with our priorities and have redirected a large portion of our manufacturing capabilities in both Sparks and Bloomingdale, Illinois, to these immune products in order to help meet some demand.
“Our manufacturing operations in Nevada and Illinois are essential to supporting the wellness of consumer around the world. We’ve required overtime work on Saturdays for all production employees in order to increase our volume, and we continue to fast-track hiring in our production areas to keep all of our lines running for increased output with the extra support.”
“NOW has been in constant communication with our employees about the coronavirus and its impact within the workplace. We have increased the frequency of cleaning the common areas in our facilities to reduce the risk of spreading any virus or bacteria. As a supplement manufacturing company, proper handwashing technique and general hygiene has always been required. However, we are reminding our employees of the necessity of this practice. Employees are being told to stay home when ill, and if they do come to work they will be sent home.”
Steve Yarborough, owner of Sierra Car Care and USA Fleet Solutions
“We are taking every precaution in the health and safety of our employees, but also want to keep our clients’ immediate needs in mind. For this reason, Sierra Car Care is now offering pickup and drop off for vehicles that need maintenance. We will sanitize the interior of each car upon arrival and again at delivery. The same has become standard operating practice for USA Fleet Solutions. All vehicles we deal with will be sanitized and we remain flexible on the locations and times we are helping clients with their needs.
“In order to help accommodate deliveries and drop offs we were not offering before, we will be needing additional help. Our plan at this time is to begin employing some additional part-time employees. Not only will this help us accommodate our customers, but it will also help some of those who have been laid off in other industries. In addition, we plan on donating 1 cent per gallon for all fuel purchased on Wednesdays at all Sierra Car Care locations. We will be directing those funds to those in our community impacted the most by what has happened of late.”
Craig Etem, director at Fennemore Craig
“Certainly there is going to be some impact. The question is how long and how deep will it be? I don’t think there’s a businessperson in the United States that doesn’t have a concern about that. Immediate impact is on the smaller business, but that doesn’t mean the big businesses won’t be impacted.
“One of the things we’re seeing is more questions about employment issues and how employers should handle their employees, and we’re trying to give them the best legal advice we can. We hope this ends quickly. We hope people don’t get sick and — to quote every talking head in the country — we flatten the curve both for health reasons and economic reasons.”
Beau Keenan, president and owner of Dickson Realty
“It’s still too soon to tell the greater impact from COVID-19. In our primary markets of Northern Nevada, we are still seeing the results of a robust market from December through February, with lots of closings in March. Our agents are working from home and using technology to show property where feasible.
“We are employing every piece of technology we have: Google meetings, electronic closings and signing, wire transfers, apps like Marco Polo for video tours of homes, etc. We are working with our clients to make sure when their properties are shown they are using safety procedures. We are running our company on a small staff, keeping everyone paid and employed at this point.”
Andrew Legge, owner of Havelock Wool
“On the production side, we are not forcing anyone to work and we’ll continue to pay our co-workers either way. For now, not surprisingly, they want to work and we would love to catch up on inventory. Over time, we have invested in automation where possible and our machinery is uniquely low maintenance. So, if gatherings of less than 10 folks reach a prohibited state we will be able to forge ahead making insulation.
“In the front office we are rotating days so one person is in the office everyday. In other words, we are taking advantage of being a small business. We will not be conducting any tours or allowing pickups at the factory.”
Are you a business that’s been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Or, conversely, are you a business that’s taking advantage of newfound opportunities? Email Kaleb M. Roedel at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
On Saturday, state officials announced the second week of March brought nearly three times the number of initial unemployment claims as the first week — the largest week-over-week jump since 1987.