Weirton businesses have been making adjustments
WEIRTON — As with most other areas of the United States, Weirton has been battered by the impacts of COVID-19.
Now, with parts of the country on the road to recovery, Weirton is ready to step in that line. Area merchants, most of whom have dealt with virus issues by coming up with new and innovative ways to serve their customers, see the way ahead as challenging but promising as they prepare for what they hope will be a quick return to normal.
“We have put our heart and soul into our business, and we are doing everything we can to provide a safe and comfortable environment for when we are allowed to fully reopen,” said Yianni Bourbakis, co-owner of Theo Yianni’s restaurant. “We want our customers to know that we will follow all of the mandated guidelines for the safety of all of our customers and staff while trying to provide a relaxing environment so people can enjoy their time outside of their homes when allowed.”
Theo Yianni’s has continued to serve its customers with pickup service during the weeks of the virus. The owners and staff are looking forward to serving lobster bisque, Greek fries and lamb kabobs to tables in the near future. “Shawn and I are grateful for this community, our customers and our great staff,” Bourbakis said. “They are more like family to us as they have really shown their love and support during these very trying times.”
Local business officials noted it has been an unusual year, with disruptions not expected in the community.
“You never know what to expect in a new year, but no one ever expected a pandemic,” said Brenda Mull, Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce president. “But a pandemic is what we got. It has disrupted our lives in ways that we could never have imagined. But when you own a business, it disrupts your life in more ways than one. It isn’t just that you have to take care of your personal life and that of your family, but of your business, as well. And, of course, your customers.
“All across America, small businesses — the businesses that started and built this country — are trying to figure out what their new normal is going to be. Many small businesses have had tough times before. For others, this is new — and shocking. But for all, tenacity has taken hold. Some are finding a new avenue for their business. But all are trying to be proactive, creative and cautious so that they open up safely.”
The changes have been many, and businesses’ ability to react swiftly and smartly has been critical.
Dee Jay’s BBQ Ribs added curbside delivery and worked around early traffic issues.
“It was hectic at first, and the cars were lined up down Three Springs Drive,” said Dee Jay’s owner Dewey Guida. “We reacted quickly, having several meetings with kitchen managers and staff on how to move the car line along in a timely manner. In addition to our drive-through window, we added staff to take care of curbside customers.
“I want to thank the surrounding community for their continued support and acceptance of this temporary new business model. We have been engaged with numerous first responders in an effort to help them out, as well. We sincerely miss seeing all of our dine-in customers, but until we fully reopen, we will continue to provide quality food — safely.”
Charlie Whiteman, owner of Holiday Lanes and Strikers Sports Bar, has emphasized the food aspect of his business while bowling has been silent. While he waits for local bowlers to fully enjoy the beautiful renovations at his center, Whiteman is promoting its special food offerings.
“If there’s a positive to this, it’s that people have found out about Strikers Sports Bar’s great food menu,” Whiteman said. “We have received a lot of great feedback from not only our loyal customers but also from new customers. Our wings, strombolis and salads have all been really popular sellers. As a result, we have begun discussing expansions in the kitchen and possibly hiring more kitchen staff.”
The hardest part of all this, Whiteman said, is the absence of fellowship with his customers.
“We go to work every day, and sometimes you take for granted that you see everyone,” he said. “I’ve learned to appreciate that and look forward to seeing everyone again. My customers are more like family, and when you can’t see family on a regular basis it’s hard. We have newly renovated our bowling seating area with flooring, new screens, tables and so forth. We are cleaning and disinfecting on a daily basis to make our business safe for everyone coming in.”
Fashions, jewelry and gift items are popular at Pretty on Penn, a unique shop with what now is a unique service to customers.
“Since having to temporarily close my business, I have resorted to my Facebook page to showcase our fashions, jewelry and Mother’s Day items,” said owner Renee Mrvos. “People have reached out to me. They are able to purchase and see new items that I have coming in. ‘We Stand Together’ bracelets are available, with proceeds going to the United Way COVID-19 relief fund.”
Mrvos loves the small town feel and she is poised for the future.
“Once we are allowed to fully open, I am adding a children’s line,” she said. “I appreciate the community’s support and look forward to seeing everyone in my store.”
Michael Weaver, co-owner of Johnmichael salon, said his shop is responding to requirements to reopen safely.
“We got stipulations from the state on how to open safely,” he said. “We sent those stipulations to the Hancock County Health Department and requested procedures on how to open up. In preparation, we are disinfecting, cleaning and sanitizing from the ceiling to the floor. Our waiting room chairs will be six feet apart, and only four stylists and one receptionist will be working at the same time. Ten people total, including stylists and clients, are allowed in the building at the same time.
“Stylists will rotate their days to accommodate the customers. Clients will wait in their cars until called. There was no timeframe given on how long this business practice would last, but we look forward to seeing our clients again soon.”
Working under new guidelines has been a challenge for many Weirton businesses, but the tasks are paying off with continuing customer contact, support from fellow business owners and watchful optimism for what can happen in the coming weeks.
“No one knows what the new normal is going to look like,” Mull said. “But as soon as they are given the go-ahead, businesses are planning to reopen and carefully move forward with positive ideas of their own. The Lion King showed us the circle of life. Many small businesses are currently working on their own circle of life with cautious optimism.”