Ever since Covid-19 entered the U.S., many businesses have either shut down or began adapting new ways to reach their customers in a safe way. During these uncertain times, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine released a stay-at-home order with specifications on which businesses are “essential.” I work for Al-Joe’s Pet & Garden Center Inc., a family business in Hamilton, Ohio and West Chester, Ohio. My great grandpa started this business in 1921 and we thankfully fall under the essential business category.
Al-Joe's Pet & Garden has pet supplies, wild bird seed, garden supplies, flowers, mulch, propane refills, grills, weed control, pest control, and so much more. We also have a full-service repair shop for fixing lawn mowers and selling parts.
People are encouraged to get out in their yards, do outdoor activities and practice social distancing. Our business has changed in a few ways as we adapt to the new guidelines set by the state. We begin our day by disinfecting the counters and doors, credit card machines and keyboards. Anything the customers could touch, we disinfect. We keep hand sanitizer at the counter and wear gloves when interacting with customers.
We started offering orders over the phone with curbside pickup options. Being an outdoor business, people have not stopped coming in. It worries me that my family’s business will be affected by this pandemic. I carry an immense amount of pride for what my family has accomplished with this business and that is why I continue to work even in a pandemic.
In-store customers have been limited to eight in our garden center and three in our parts department. Surprisingly, the demographic of our customers hasn’t changed. The order sent out by Gov. DeWine makes it clear that older people should stay at home and they are a big chunk of our customers. To my surprise, older people are still coming in.
I can easily say being an essential worker is a gift in a sense, because I know many people are being laid off and businesses are shutting down. While I go to work every day with the possibility of catching this virus, I am grateful I still have a job and that my family is able to continue working.
As a small business, we are wishing everyone health and safety during the next few months as the world continues to battle this. We also thank all other essential businesses and essential workers for continuing to work.