Editor’s Note: Starting in March, the Business Journal featured area businesses and how they were adjusting operations, innovating and coping in general with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. For this issue, we’re providing updates on some of those businesses as they continue to work through the ongoing pandemic.
Getting fruits, veggies at Port City Produce
The Market Street location of Port City Produce opened in March this year, a little earlier than usual, to fill the demand from people eating at home because of restaurant closures at the time.
Since then, the fresh produce business, which started during the summer of 2010, has added online ordering for curbside pickup and is even busier, said Sven Wallin, a partner in the produce business.
Supply is a little different this year than in years past, he said.
“We are able to get products, but they are not as plentiful as years past, and prices are markedly higher than any previous years,” Wallin said.
“Corn has been in very short supply. Local farmers’ summer crops have just started up, so hopefully, that will alleviate some supply issues.”
The produce business has locations at 5740 Market St. and 6458 Carolina Beach Road.
But Port City Produce is planning on moving its Market Street location to a larger site at 6520 Market St.
“Expansion is going well,” Wallin said, “and we are just awaiting our confirmation from permitting that we can start the building process at the new location.”
Aunt Kerry’s Pet Stop reopens with precautions
Aunt Kerry’s Pet Stop started offering curbside pickup of pet supplies toward the end of March at the store at 3600 S. College Road.
“We are hanging in there,” Aunt Kerry’s Pet Stop owner Kerry Bradley said in a recent email. “June 1 we opened up our doors to welcome back shoppers inside the store and went back to regular hours. I knew we could not sustain [curbside-only] for a long period of time.”
But the store is still offering curbside service for those who want zero contact, she said.
“The only way I felt safe with opening up the store was to require masks for employees and customers. We set up a hand sanitizer station and are offering free masks to those who do not have one,” Bradley said. “We have put up social distancing signs and plexiglass at the check-out. Along with cleaning the store multiple times a day. My staff and customers’ safety is my No. 1 priority. It has been nice to see our sweet fur customers back in the store again.”
She said the store accepts pet food donations to give to different animal rescue organizations.
“With our donations we have [also] set up a pet food pantry to help anyone who is having financial difficulties from COVID-19,” Bradley said.
A customer is making masks that the store is selling to benefit Sky- Watch Bird Rescue.
“They are $10 each or $20 for three; 100% of the money goes to the rescue. Helping our community has always been so important to me especially in times like these,” Bradley said. “I just have learned to take it day to day and to stay thankful for even the little things.”
Shifting to mask-making to aid African artisans
Wilmington-based retailer Swahili Coast has reopened both of its downtown stores, one in Chandler’s Wharf and the other on Front Street.
The owners had closed both of them in March.
Caroline Fisher and Tony Peele opened the doors of the first Swahili Coast location in Wilmington in 2016. The store is an outgrowth of the couple’s wholesale shoe company founded in 2014 that sells handmade accessories.
In a recent update, Fisher said the business has transitioned its partner factory in Tanzania to make reusable fabric face masks to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and East Africa. Peele and Fisher had used their savings to start a worker- owned cooperative in Tanzania, which produces handmade beaded leather sandals and accessories sold in their Wilmington retail store and in 300 retailers worldwide.
“Though Peele and Fisher funded the start of the co-op, they maintain no financial stake, leaving the co-op to be owned and managed by the workers. To date, there are 20 artisans working in the co-op, sharing in the profits of the business. With the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, business shifted dramatically,” the update stated.
To make matters more dire, the coronavirus got a foothold in Tanzania, the update stated, and cases rose dramatically, making it the hot spot for COVID-19 cases in East Africa.
“We didn’t want to take face masks out of Tanzania that could be used to keep people safe, so we decided to have the co-op try their hand at making them – and we decided to donate a mask to at-risk people in Tanzania for every mask we sell in the U.S.,” Peele said in the update.
Fisher added, “We’ve also been donating masks locally, to Vigilant Hope, as well as attending a lot of the rallies that have happened recently to pass them out to anyone not wearing a mask.”