State restrictions lift, businesses react

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 5, 2020

 Susan Wrobel, of Washington Township, picks up her takeout order from a table outside Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sterling Heights June 4.

Susan Wrobel, of Washington Township, picks up her takeout order from a table outside Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sterling Heights June 4.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Like many businesses, Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sterling Heights couldn’t simply react to the COVID-19 pandemic by doing nothing.

But adapting a small cake shop to a coronavirus world isn’t easy.

“We’re trying to get prepared. I’m almost there,” store owner Andrea Jones said. “Sneeze guards, we’re going to install on our counters. Unfortunately, because of the shape of my bakery, we can only fit two people in the lobby at a time.”

According to Jones, the business hasn’t yet let customers inside but has adapted to the coronavirus by putting a no-contact order pickup table outside its storefront. Customers contact the store, and workers place the orders on the table for the customers to pick up themselves. Staff sanitizes the table every 10 minutes, Jones said.

Jones said the business has also done no-contact deliveries. She said the reaction to the no-contact approach has varied.

“It’s like 50-50 as a response,” she said. “There are some guests who prefer it that way who are totally good with it, and there are other guests who kind of want business as usual.”

Jones said the coronavirus caused her business to pare down to a third of its original staff. But as the state’s coronavirus restrictions on businesses start to lift, she now believes that her shop will need to implement a drive-up process and hire more workers so that it can keep up. While Jones said she can’t add an indoor lobby expansion, she is thinking about adding tents outside to accommodate overflow customers.

“The demand is still there,” she said. “However, it is so much more labor-intensive to service a guest now in these times. … We used to just say, ‘Hey, come on in,’ to ‘OK, now we only talk over the phone and online.’”


Restrictions rolled back
In recent weeks, the state has gradually let more and more businesses reopen in limited capacity under new executive orders and guidelines. On June 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared via executive order that the entire state had moved into Phase 4 of her six-phased MI Safe Start reopening plan.

As a result, office work that can’t happen remotely may return, and professional house cleaners may get back to work, too.

On June 4, retailers could reopen in limited capacity, and that went likewise for restaurants and children’s day camps starting June 8. Phase 4 also allows fitness facilities to do outdoor classes as long as people keep 6 feet apart.

But the reopenings come with regulations attached. For instance, restaurant tables need to be 6 feet apart, and servers have to wear personal protective equipment.

Stacy Ziarko, the president and CEO of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the reopening process and its restrictions will look different for many businesses, ranging from hair salons and restaurants to manufacturers.

She said the chamber has been trying to do as much as it can to use its marketing resources to help chamber members. And she said the group is organizing a vehicle-based Great Macomb County Scavenger Hunt June 27 that will support businesses throughout the entire community.

“Knock on wood, we have not had a (chamber) member call in and say they’ve shut their doors, so I feel that’s really positive,” Ziarko said.

Even at the chamber’s headquarters, Ziarko said, the effects of the coronavirus are evident. She said the landlord has disabled locked keypads on bathroom doors, added hand sanitizer stations throughout the building and added cleaning shifts.

Ziarko acknowledged that the virus’ impact on businesses and the economy wouldn’t be going away soon.

“When this all started, I thought the coronavirus wasn’t going to last very long,” Ziarko said. “And now we’re planning until December.”

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce by visiting www.shrcci.com or by calling (586) 731-5400.

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