Sorrento Pizza employee Austin Peterson brings a curbside order out for Don and Lori Galloway of Port Huron on March 19.

Sorrento Pizza employee Austin Peterson brings a curbside order out for Don and Lori Galloway of Port Huron on March 19.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Warren, Center Line business community reacts to coronavirus pandemic

By: Brian Louwers, Tiffany Esshaki | Warren Weekly | Published March 20, 2020


WARREN/CENTER LINE — In every community around Michigan, there is an eerie stillness where, not long ago, there was hustle and bustle: School desks sit empty, barstools grow cold, store shelves lie bare.

But don’t be fooled. While the world may be hunkered down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some local businesses are alive and open, waiting to serve their neighbors any way they can during this crisis.

With hopes of slowing down the spread of the disease, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined with several other states last week and ordered wide-reaching lockdowns on a variety of businesses, from bars and restaurants to fitness studios and beyond.

The aim is to stop people from congregating in large numbers and potentially passing along the virus at a speed that could put a major strain on the region’s medical resources.

That means, though, that local 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 potential layoffs, missed vendor payments or maybe worse.

Annamarie Battaglia, daughter of the founder of Sorrento Pizza on Nine Mile Road in Warren and part of the management team, said the restaurant remains open for curbside carryout and delivery service.

“We are abiding by all the rules and guidelines for the safety of our customers and our employees,” Battaglia said.

While business was down slightly as a result of the sweeping changes affecting all areas of daily life in America and around the world, Battaglia said orders were still coming in from people wishing to enjoy delicious pizza while hunkered down.

“We’re actually still doing pretty well. We’ve seen a decrease in orders, but the orders we are getting are larger,” Battaglia said. “We’re hanging in there. We’re taking the proper precautions to keep everyone safe. We want to do everything we possibly can to support the community right now.”

Ray Elliott is a lab technician at Centerline Denture Clinic on Van Dyke Avenue in Center Line. The office handles all dental needs with the exception of braces, and it does not put patients under when services are performed.

Of course, dentures and dental implants break, and problems with teeth can arise even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Elliott said Centerline Denture Clinic remains open to take care of all emergency dental and denture needs.

“We’re not really doing elective procedures. If you’ve got a toothache, we’re going to deal with a toothache. If someone breaks dentures, we’re going to fix it or do what we have to do to take care of the problem,” Elliott said. “We’re here to take care of anything they need as far as emergency services.”

Clinics are among the most sterile environments under normal circumstances, and Elliott said every step has been taken to protect workers and patients given the current situation.

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

“I’m so proud to see the state’s small business resources rally together in this time of crisis. The stories we are hearing from the small businesses affected by COVID-19 are devastating,” Michigan Small Business Development Center State Director J.D. Collins said in a prepared statement.

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 during the pandemic. 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 all our employees, 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.”