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WEB EXCLUSIVE If you think opening a business is hard on its own, try opening one during a pandemic.
Last November, Jimmy Fleck took the first steps in realizing his dream of opening a bottle shop, which he ultimately named Roshambo Beverage Co., in leasing a space just outside of downtown Raleigh. Construction started and things were going well until the coronavirus pandemic put the whole world on pause. Fleck and his wife, Jane Oslislo, who worked as Boxcar’s general manager until she was laid off on St. Patrick’s Day, continued to move forward with the project. But they faced delays.
“It was pretty difficult and [the opening process] has been very challenging,” Oslislo says. “To make sure the construction crew was safe, we put in a three-day buffer window between each different crew that came to work in the shop.” The couple was forced to push back their opening date to Monday, July 27, about seven months after they started work on the project.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have had to pivot their operations in order to keep employees and customers safe while following rules put in place by Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration. Deciding whether or not to open a new business is a dilemma of its own, but when you’ve already put money into a space, hired employees and have rent to pay, you really have no choice but to keep moving forward.
“We just had to make it work, we had no other choice,” says Oslislo. “Once you commit to a space, you’re in it.”
Husband and wife team Robyn Buchholz and Andrew Ward found themselves in the same difficult position as Fleck and Oslislo when opening up their new coffee shop The Optimist. They found their location on Brookside Drive in January and planned to open in April, but, come March, the opening plan came to a screeching halt. They decided to postpone their opening until they had a clearer picture of how the coronavirus pandemic would play out.
While the pandemic certainly caught CBD store Hemp2Heal’s owner Matthew McDonald and his mother, Marcia, by surprise, they didn’t give a second thought to halting construction. They had started pre-COVID and pushed right through the opening process. Marcia says there were some delays in shipping, but their contractors, wholesalers and vendors made the process relatively stress-free. “I’m actually glad we didn’t allow the pandemic to stop us from moving forward with the opening of our retail space,” Marcia says.
After a few months stuck in a limbo of not knowing whether or not the status of the pandemic would improve anytime soon, The Optimist’s owners ultimately opened their takeout window on May 4.
“We decided we wanted to do our part in supporting local and being local,” says Buchholz. Like the rest of us, the only thing they can do is stay optimistic about the future–and support Raleigh’s independent businesses now, when they need it more than ever.
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