The impact upon business with the closures and limitations brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been a mixed bag for Brookfield, Masury and Yankee Lake operations.
C and G Retail, which sells overstock, returned and shelf-pulled merchandise, had to close its store March 24 due to a governor’s order. The store is the main income for owner Candace Phipps and her family.
“We’re hoping for the best and that we at least pay our bills,” she said on March 23. The damage the closing does “all depends on how long it lasts.”
The company, which has been open for four years, three of them in Brookfield, was allowed to run an online auction of its goods, and have people drive up to get what they bought.
Tenaris S.A., which recently bought the former TMK IPSCO plant in Brookfield, announced March 19 that it would idle the Brookfield plant, which has 125 employees, on April 17, and that layoffs at other plants would bring the total to 900 jobs.
The company, which makes steel pipe for the oil and gas industry, said the plunge in oil prices brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and other causes was to blame.
“Given the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Tenaris will be offering employees being laid off three months of COBRA health insurance with the possibility of being extended, should the outbreak persist,” said Luca Zanotti, Tenaris US President, in a statement.
Grocery and convenience stores are in no danger of going out of business. Customers have strained their ability to keep in stock items such as toilet paper, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer; staples such as meat, bread and milk; and vice items like alcohol and cigarettes.
“A little bit of panic buying going on right now,” said Ed D’Onofrio, co-owner of Mr. D’s Delicious Fresh Foods.
Yankee Lake Party Store has been busy “because we sell liquor,” said owner John Jurko. “PA closed its liquor stores, so they’re all coming over here.”
Jenetta Christy, co-owner of Brookfield Drive-In, said the popularity of vice items showed “they’re so afraid to be stuck in the house.”
Brookfield Drive-In no longer allows anyone into the store, and requires customers to stay in their vehicles as they drive through.
“It’s been crazy,” Christy said of business overall. “I hate to say we’re doing well when somebody else loses, but I think they’re panicking.”
Cara Miller, co-owner of Scotty’s Brookfield Express Mart, said, “We’ve had crazy days. We’ve had slow days.”
The crazy days were a result of panicking, but things were closer to normal by March 24, she said.
Some of her suppliers have changed their delivery schedule, but she wasn’t facing any shortages, she said.
The cleaning schedule in the store also has changed.
“We wipe everything down every half hour to an hour,” Miller said. “We’re doing the most we can to keep the store safe for everybody.”
Bars and restaurants had to close, but were able to offer takeout. Tracey Mills, owner of Belly Buster Sub Shoppe, said she wasn’t worried for her own business, which already had robust takeout sales, but for places like Bad to the Bone BBQ, which has only been open for a little more than a year, and those that rely on St. Patrick’s Day sales.
Overall, business has been fair, but Mills is grateful for that.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Brookfield, our loyal customers,” Mills said.
One of those places that relies on St. Patrick’s Day, Laddie’s Sky Club, did “pretty well” with its takeout-only offerings that day, said co-owner Kendra Kurpe-Sheasley.
“We had to turn the phone off a few times, because we couldn’t catch up,” she said. “It was busier than we thought it would be.”
There’s been a learning curve trying to figure out the best times to be open, what supplies to order, what to place on the menu, Kurpe-Sheasley said.
“We’re figuring it out, I guess,” she said.
R.P. McMurphy’s Sports Bar and Grill laid off a cook and a bartender, and co-owner Dave Driscoll took a pay cut.
“We’ve just been pitching in with the wives, and my mother has been down here,” Driscoll said.
McMurphy’s has relied less on alcohol sales than some other places like it, and has targeted those with a budget with its $1.50 tacos and $2.50 burgers, he said. To try to keep the business going without Thursday Queen of Hearts drawings, Driscoll has been more visible on Facebook.
“I think more people are discovering us due to our Facebook page and the positive reviews,” he said.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Driscoll said. “Our food numbers are up. I think we can survive.”
The food numbers are not up for Hilltop Pizza, which has always been takeout only. Business has dropped off “noticeably,” said co-owner Nancy Scharba.
“I think the biggest reason is probably fear,” she said. “I think people are heeding the warnings and staying inside.”
Hilltop has had a problem getting enough people to work. Two employees have been sick and, while their doctors do not believe they have COVID-19, the doctors recommended that they quarantine themselves, Scharba said.
Scharba added she has had poor luck attracting new employees, a couple of whom were hired and didn’t show up for their first days.
“We’re working with a skeleton staff,” she said. “We don’t know when we’ll have delivery. We think it’s a win that we’re open that day.”
(Editor’s note: after this story was published, Hilltop Pizza announced it was closing April 6 and hoped to resume operation April 20.)
Two local trucking companies said they have yet to see an impact.
“Everything’s pretty much the same, so far,” said Carly Kappelt, recruiter for PI&I Motor Express. “Our customer base hasn’t changed.”
Bill Strimbu, president of Nick Strimbu Inc., called business “strong, right now,” although the company anticipates things will slow. To prepare for that, flatbed drivers are being trained to drive refrigerated loads.
“We’re gonna keep going until they tell us to stop,” he said.
The company has tried to keep up the spirits of its drivers, some of whom are “really scared,” he said.
The company advises the drivers to quarantine in their rigs as each Strimbu truck is equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave. The company also was loading trucks with food and toiletry bags to help the drivers stay in place.
As truckers are being asked to stay on the job and get goods to where they’re needed, governments need to remember those drivers, Strimbu said. He noted that Pennsylvania had closed its rest areas, forcing truckers to pull over on highway ramps, road sides and parking lots.
“They’re being asked to stay on the job, and they’re not getting any love when they’re out on the road,” Strimbu said.
Strimbu said he can see a silver lining in the cloud of this pandemic.
“I think we all need to pull together and look after one another,” he said. “This is a wake-up call, but I think a lot of good is gonna come from it.”