Mark Trudeau, right, owns and operates Troy Martial Arts with his wife, Tammy.

Mark Trudeau, right, owns and operates Troy Martial Arts with his wife, Tammy.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Small businesses make their comeback in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 9, 2020

 A Shield’s Restaurant, Bar and Pizzeria employee prepares packing to serve customers by curbside and carryout at the restaurant March 20.

A Shield’s Restaurant, Bar and Pizzeria employee prepares packing to serve customers by curbside and carryout at the restaurant March 20.

Photo by Deb Jacques


TROY — “It’s quite a devastating time for our industry,” said Paul Andoni, the owner of Shield’s Restaurant, Bar and Pizzeria at 1476 W. Maple Road in Troy, when he spoke to C & G Newspapers in mid-March.

On June 2, he said that the restaurant, operating with nine to 10 employees, had offered its full menu for carryout and curbside pickup throughout the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order.

“Things are going well,” Andoni said June 2, noting that while sales were not normal, the volume of business justified remaining open. Shield’s plans to reopen its dining room, maintaining 50% capacity, June 15. Outdoor seating will be added when they receive final approval, Andoni added.

In every community around Michigan, even three months after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state, most commerce was at a standstill, school desks sat empty, barstools grew cold, store shelves sat bare.

Local businesses have been hanging on since mid-March, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer  ordered all non-essential workers to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now that we’re slowly crawling out of quarantine and back into our neighborhood restaurants and stores, those businesses are waiting to fully reopen soon and serve customers any way they can during this crisis.

While data show that the lockdown reduced the number of fatal cases of the virus, the economic ramifications can’t be ignored: small businesses are suffering their own ailments. Without the resources and financial backing of stakeholders to lean on, those small, independent operations face not just diminished revenue, but layoffs, missed vendor payments and, in some cases, worse.

Legislators and business associations at every level say they are doing what they can to lessen the blow to those businesses, but what those merchants really need now is support from customers and each other.

Shining a spotlight on community-based organizations and businesses has never been more important, and that’s where the Demers family feels like they can do their part to help merchants recover. As the owners of C & G Newspapers, with 19 publications dedicated to hyperlocal news coverage and advertising, the family feels a huge responsibility to keep residents informed about what is going on in their own backyard, said Managing Editor Gregg Demers.

“I think every business person feels the same way. They’re all pitching in to get everyone through this terrible crisis. That’s when we really see the best in people,” he said. “I’m so pleased with the response from our editors and reporters, and how dedicated they are to getting the job done and keeping readers connected to their community and informed about what’s happening where they live. I think that’s the role we can play to help get through this, and it’s an important one.”

At Shield’s, changes will include hand sanitizer placed on every table, single-use paper menus, employee health and temperature screenings, personal protection equipment for employees, and major cleaning before the dining room reopens.

“We are going the extra mile to be more germ free than ever,” he said.

Mark Trudeau has owned and operated Troy Martial Arts with his wife, Tammy, at South Boulevard and Crooks Road since 1980. They also own and operate Rochester Martial Arts and Rochester Hills Martial Arts.

“We closed March 13,” he said.

During the shutdown, they produced videos and posted them on YouTube and Facebook so that students could do different moves and practice their form. The videos are available on the Troy Martial arts app.

On June 2, Trudeau told C & G Newspapers that the videos had received 10,000 views over the last two months.

In March, Trudeau said they were able to weather the closure financially because they are debt free, and he noted that they would not collect any fees from customers during the closure.

“Students won’t pay us until we start. We’ve got great customers, and we’re getting great support from families.”

He said they’ve weathered hard times before during 40 years of business — in the ’80s, the ’90s, the financial downturn of 2008 and this. “So we’re well prepared.”

Trudeau said they plan to reopen July 3 and “will meet or exceed” guidelines recommended and required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

These include installing three fresh air exchangers, three ultraviolet lights, allergy filters, and fans; using an electrostatic sprayer; cleaning and balancing all air vents; and requiring people to use foam hand sanitizer dispensers upon entering and leaving the facility.

Four live stream cameras will allow students to take their classes off-site on a smartphone or other device and will allow parents to watch their child’s class in their vehicle.

The facility will be cleaned before and after every class, with 20 minutes between classes to allow this. Staff and students will wear face masks. Staff will have their temperatures taken each day.

Classes will be made as small as possible, and more than double the number of classes will be offered to allow for social distancing of 12 feet.

“We made the curriculum noncontact,” Trudeau said, adding that students can practice contact at home, with family members.

In early June, Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced that a second round of grants will be available to small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

The most recent grants apply to businesses that can in some way transition their services or manufacturing to provide materials that will help other local businesses to safely reopen after the lockdown.

Outlets able to create essentials like hand sanitizers, protective equipment and barriers, or touchless technologies like thermometers are needed more than ever, and the county wants to incentivize creating those items nearby. The fund has more than $300,000 to distribute and is part of a nearly $14 million in total grants that have been allocated to aid small businesses.

Lots of those locally manufactured personal protective equipment, or PPE, items will be included in the 10,000 reopening toolkits the county has committed to distributing to businesses of 50 employees or fewer. Each kit is stuffed with $400 worth of PPE that can be doled out to staff or employees to keep face-to-face interaction safe as we move forward.

“As many of our small businesses prepare to re-engage with customers, they will find a vastly different environment than the one they knew several months ago,” Coulter said in a prepared statement. “Customers and employees alike are concerned with their health and safety and want businesses to take the necessary steps to keep them protected as they regain their confidence. These grants will provide vital goods and services to our small businesses to help reassure customers their health and safety is a priority.”

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner added to that effort, hosting a discussion panel for business owners and managers last week with experts to advise on reopening strategies.

Among the ideas discussed by representatives from the Guidepost Solutions consulting firm were solid stay-home policies for ill employees, added sanitation measures like desk partitions, and pandemic organization strategies, like naming a “pandemic coordinator” on the staff.

“Exiting the pandemic presents opportunities for education, preparedness and confidence-building so that local businesses and the people interacting with them remain viable and healthy,” said Meisner in a press release.

Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki contributed to this report.