Social distancing restrictions and health-driven demand shifts have impacted and even closed many businesses in the local Deerfield community since the spread of COVID-19 in the area. Months after the pandemic led the country into a lockdown, small local businesses continue to feel the impact with record-low sales and record-high layoffs as they try to move back to a new normal.
Director of Government Affairs Steve Clark at the Massachusetts Restaurant Association previously disclosed that roughly three to four restaurants were closing daily across the Bay State as a result of the pandemic. Different obstacles, namely retrofitting restaurants and investing in equipment to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, had caused a heavy blow for business owners who attempted to regulate expenses.
Yet, Clark told MassLive that small local businesses, the food industry in particular, would come through the other side. He further asserted that the industry was pliable and would survive the pandemic.
Many restaurants near Deerfield Academy have had to adjust to new COVID-19 policies and procedures upon reopening. When Governor Charlie Baker ordered dining rooms to close in March in an effort to contain the virus, many businesses struggled with the change and fewer customers.
The People’s Pint, a popular location for Deerfield faculty in past years, closed before the Governor’s orders. While they reopened briefly with a curbside pickup system, they have decided to stop the take-out system and wait until they can safely re-open indoors.
As outbreaks ebbed in Deerfield this fall, local administrations offered a slightly looser patchwork of reopening policies in order to supplement businesses’ recovery from the crippled economy.
Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern at the Deerfield Inn elected to reopen with in-door service, albeit with a limited capacity. Dine-in customers must adhere to strict social distancing protocols, while personal protective equipment is provided upon request for guests staying at the Inn.
Similarly, Hope & Olive resumed service for dinner from 5 p.m to 8 p.m, as well as Sunday brunch. The restaurant offers both distanced indoor seating and a takeout system.
However, some businesses have not faced as much of a change. Ben Clark ’96, the owner of Clarkdale Fruit Farms and a member of the Deerfield Board of Trustees, explained that the farm has still been doing well.
He said, “The demand we’ve noticed is really strong. Sales are up from last year. We just finished our pick-your-own-apples, and that was the best season we’ve ever had.” He added that many other farms in the area are also doing well during this time, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clark explained that Clarkdale Fruit Farms has also benefited from good relationships with major wholesale accounts, one of which is Deerfield Academy. He explained, “we have a good and long standing relationship with Bement, Eaglebrook, and Deerfield. That’s helped us as well this year.”
However, the farm has still faced challenges brought on by the pandemic. “There is definitely an impact from the lack of Parent’s Weekend and other times where there normally would be an influx of people in the area,” Clark explained.
Richardson’s Candy Kitchen is also functioning much the same as it was in previous years. The store offers in-store shopping (masks are required) and curbside pickup, as well as delivery. The store hours have, however, changed: it is now only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The constant changes and backtracking from the nation’s governors reflected immense pressure on business owners. In response, Franklin County announced in July the establishment of a $500,000 grant fund targeting small local businesses to reimburse costs of business interruptions resulting from the ongoing pandemic. Businesses in the area, including those in Rocky Mount and Boones Mill, were able to apply for Recovery grants to help offset financial impacts.