Local area businesses working through lockdown, making adjustments

Kalamazoo area businesses are continually adjusting to new restrictions and limitations in order to keep providing services.

As parts of Michigan begin to adjust to fewer restrictions, local businesses are continuing to provide services to their customers.

Businesses in the Kalamazoo area are adjusting to social distancing guidelines as they continue to serve the community by running curbside and keeping a keen eye on their employees in order to ensure the success of their operations.

“When this COVID thing caught us by surprise, we switched our business model to curbside,” said Polly Kragt, owner of ChocolaTea, a tea shop in Portage.

“I felt I needed to do my part to flatten the curve,” said Kragt who continued to do just that when she laid off her entire payroll on April 3, which includes employees of her other store The Pantry On Tap next door, and closed curbside in order to abide by the stay-at-home order. She continued to fill orders for her online store on her own, but business was only about 30-40% of what it had been.

On May 13, Kragt made the decision to reopen ChocolaTea for curbside service.

“I’ve seen restaurants do well on curbside,” said Kragt, who offered her workers, most of whom made the decision to return to work, a raise in the form of what she calls ‘Hero Pay.’

Some other local businesses have been running since March despite the social distancing.

“We were only open inside for maybe five days,” said John Taylor, owner of KKind, a marijuana dispensary in Kalamazoo Township. KKind opened its doors for recreational sales in early March before having to pivot to curbside service only a few days later.

While many businesses have had to lay off employees and make cuts in order to survive, KKind has seen success from high demand for their products.

“We’ve gone from about 15 employees to about 35,” said Taylor. “I’m glad I have the ability to offer employment in this time.”

Employees are required to wear gloves and masks while interacting with customers as well as handling their product. 

“We monitor the temperature of each employee as they come on their shift,” said Taylor.

Like other businesses in the area, KKind and ChocolaTea are still learning how to operate in this new climate as they face uncertainty as to when the pandemic and its restrictions will ultimately let up.

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