Arlington business owners faced difficulty during the pandemic, but circumstances are turning around.

ARLINGTON – Considered an essential business, Daniel Logan’s Columbia Pike Laundry stayed open throughout the pandemic. That doesn’t mean the pickup and delivery laundry wasn’t hit hard.

“As you would imagine, foot traffic pretty much fell off of a cliff [in] March, April, May last year,” Logan said. 

Logan was one of several Arlington County business owners that shared their stories Tuesday. Speaking with county officials, all of the business owners painted a picture of what they focused on and how they stayed open.

What Happened?

Keeping staff healthy and employed became some of the biggest early challenges for Logan.

Christina Campos, owner of SER Restaurant, also faced a difficult reality. Given the unpredictability of the virus, Campos said goodbye to staff members, whom she called “family away from family.”

However, adapting to the changing climate, Campos broke her own rule on not offering takeout options.

“Our food is to be presented on a beautiful plate,” Campos said. “It’s art. Doesn’t travel well.”

Pivoting, Campos worked with chefs to envision dishes that didn’t skimp on the presentation and could also handle a drive.

Jennifer Jones did a total overhaul on her business. The founder of Cosmopolitan Plated typically hosts group cooking classes.

“My entire model is literally getting people together at the table to change perspectives and connect,” Jones said.

The pandemic drastically changed that.

Jones started a free, weekly community class online, where she helped guide people through the changing scene of grocery stores and at-home cooking.

“It was a complete pivot into a new business model, which has now become another avenue,” Jones said. “So it’s had its ups and downs, but challenging nonetheless.”

Vaccines

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, each business handled things differently.

“It’s basically this, or you could be sick – very sick – and have lifelong effects,” Campos said. “Or to be very frank, you won’t be here anymore. You’ll die.”

When discussing personal matters – like vaccine choice – Campos sits down with her employees on a one-on-one basis.

“We are having those honest conversations,” Campos said. “And I think little by little, you know, we’re getting questions back. We’re having very intimate conversations. I think that has been working a lot – just laying down the facts one-on-one and really making sure this is nothing personal. It is something to be safe, and for us to have our jobs, for the economy to start building back again.”

Jones called her decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine “an absolute no-brainer.” The businesswoman had a difficult bout with COVID and chose to protect herself against a second round of the virus.

“I was very honest with my community [on the video] we do once a week digitally,” Jones said. “We speak honestly. It’s a very organic kind of thing where we’re cooking and talking and people chime in.”

Sharing her story with her community, clients met Jones with support.

“When I was honest and I spoke honestly, so many of them communicated back that it changed their perspective,” Jones said.

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com