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 Terri Hayosh, the owner of Sidecar Slider Bar in Commerce Township, said she’s been excited to reopen to diners following the pandemic shutdown.

Terri Hayosh, the owner of Sidecar Slider Bar in Commerce Township, said she’s been excited to reopen to diners following the pandemic shutdown.

Photo by Deb Jacques


West Bloomfield-area businesses raring to reopen

By: Tiffany Esshaki | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 4, 2020

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — 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 lay bare.

But that’s starting to change.

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.”

Letting people know that their favorite restaurants and stores are open — even if it’s in an altered format — might make all the difference for those small businesses, according to Terri Hayosh, the owner of Sidecar Slider Bar, in Commerce Township.

“It’s been pretty scary,” she said. “We make 95% of everything on our menu from scratch, so we lost everything. We had to cancel all these fundraisers for schools, and they’re losing money. Small businesses are what keep our middle class going, and that’s where I’m at.”

Since late May, the restaurant has been taking carryout orders for dinner, but before that, the doors were closed during the pandemic.

Well, with some exceptions.

“Right at the beginning in March, we said that we would give anyone who needed a meal a free meal. Just drive up to the restaurant and we’ll bring it out to you in masks and all that,” Hayosh said. “That day, we gave away 196 boxes of food, each with two sliders and a side. And I drove to five assisted living facilities.”

Pitching in during these tough times has been as vital to her business as any happy hour and busy dinner service, Hayosh said, because it’s her name and reputation on the line.

“I want the kids to come in and think we have the hottest place around so they come back and have their wedding rehearsal dinner here and have their baby shower here. They just kind of grow with you,” she explained. “I want to know my guests, and I want it to be the kind of place where families can come for a good meal, and then mom and dad can come back at 9 or 10 and get a nightcap.”

To get back into the swing of things, Sidecar is doubling down on a lot of the community events that used to be staples at the restaurant, like the sold-out bourbon tastings, yoga and mimosa sessions, and drag queen bingo nights, among others. And they’ve recently brought in a brand-new outdoor grill where guests can get quick, foil-wrapped street food made to order.

Of course that will all come with an added responsibility of keeping patrons safe from the virus. But that’s no problem, Hayosh said. She considers herself something of a clean freak, and her staff has long been used to keeping things sanitary and sparkling.

“I would hold my kitchen against any in the state of Michigan for cleanliness,” she said.

Hayosh isn’t alone, in more ways than one. All over Oakland County, businesses are working as hard as the Sidecar crew to bring patrons back through the door, and while they have support from communities, they’re also getting a leg up from economic development agencies, downtown development authorities, chambers of commerce and even local government leaders.

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 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.

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