July 30, 2020
Here's how local businesses are coping:

Vernales, Harbor Springs Festival of the Book, J.R. Pontius Flower Shop, Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls, Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry

We asked our members how they are doing these days, when many of us have had to change how we conduct business. Is your business or organization doing something new, different, smart, and/or creative? Can your ideas help others? If so, we'd like to feature you in this new Member Spotlight feature.

If you’d like to be considered for our Member Spotlight and share some of your ideas and coping strategies,  please take this short survey  . Then we will share them with our newsletter readers and social media followers. We plan to run several each week, so stay tuned.

We've received some great answers -  five last week and five more this week (below):
Nikki Theisen, Vernales Restaurant:
"Every table, chair, bar stool and condiment is sanitized after every guest, every time"

What have you had to do differently since the pandemic began?  
First and foremost, we've reassured both our staff as well as our guests that we are taking every precaution we can in order to keep everyone safe. We've distanced all tables to be six feet apart as well as marking off bar stools to account for social distancing. The entire staff records their temperature and fills out a health screening form daily, as well as wear masks for the duration of their shifts and all servers/server assistants wear and change out disposable gloves. We've added three touch-free hand sanitizer stations to the interior of the restaurant and have switched to single-use/disposable menus. Online ordering has been added to the Vernales website and curbside pick up is available to our guests.

What has worked?  
We are very fortunate that Vernales is such a large dining space with five separate dining areas, making social distancing a little easier to navigate. Adding a small, second patio to the Chophouse side of the building has made guests feel more comfortable as well. One thing that is important to touch on is that we have always had extremely high standards for our cleaning and sanitation procedures. Multiple guests have commented on how comfortable they feel dining with us because of this. Every table, chair, bar stool and condiment is sanitized after every guest, every time.

What has NOT worked?  
Honestly, there really isn't anything that hasn't worked. For the most part, guests have been understanding of our new procedures and are so appreciative that they have a place to dine out! Our family here at Vernales have all been so wonderful in helping make the changes as seamless as possible - all the changes have worked together to create a 'new normal' that is, now, second nature.

What is the one most important thing you have learned during the past 4 months?
Communication is key, and that as long as everyone (guests as well as the staff) is understanding and kind to each other we can overcome anything!

Vernales, 3018 M-119, Harbor Springs, (231) 242-4777.
In the past, the Festival of the Book drew large crowds to events - but not this year.

Amy Gillard, Harbor Springs Festival of the Book:
"Each presenter has been asked to create a video"

What have you had to do differently since the pandemic began?  
The Festival board and staff had to look at the Festival in an entirely new way. We had many conversations around what to do as an organization without a signature event this year. We can tell you about three activities: 1) Books for Schools. Distribution may be different but this will happen. 2) A virtual culinary event, featuring Maureen Abood, will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, August 11 at 7 p.m. (Full story below) 3) Leading up to what would have been the Festival dates (Sept. 25-27), we will be featuring all the authors/illustrators who we had confirmed. This will be an online promotion. Each presenter has been asked to create a video that will be posted along with other details about them and their featured book. The email promotion will also be interactive. Readers of the email will have fun adding books to their "virtual bookshelf" and prizes will be awarded. More events are being planned, so watch for the announcements in our newsletter and  website  .

What has worked?  
We've had time to plan our events, but since they don't launch for another few weeks, we'll have to get back to you on this one.

What has NOT worked? 
It isn't that we have tried activities that have not worked, it is that we knew from attendees, presenters, donors, and volunteers that what makes our event so special is that it is IN Harbor Springs. We could not duplicate the atmosphere, energy, ambiance, and interaction of the Festival online.

What is the one most important thing you have learned during the past 4 months?
We have known that the Harbor Springs community is supportive of our organization, but when we announced the cancellation of this year's Festival, we received nothing but supportive comments, from email messages and masked/socially-distanced sidewalk conversations. It was a hard and difficult decision to make, but we know it was the right decision. We are continually grateful for this community as they stand alongside of us as we stay engaged as we can. We will all miss our time together in September, and we all look forward to great things for the Festival in 2021.

Harbor Springs Festival of the Book  P.O. Box 766, Harbor Springs, 231-838-2725.
Jamie Platte of A.R. Pontius Flower Shop:
"The two largest challenges for us are the cancellation of most events and the small size of our storefront"

What have you had to do differently since the pandemic began?  
The two largest challenges for us this summer are the cancellation of most events and the small size of our storefront. About a third of our business is wedding-based, so the inability to gather in groups has changed how our summer looks. But, with a smaller, experienced staff we are making it work!

We are also only allowing one customer at a time inside our storefront, so that person can shop in comfort and our employees can offer help and keep some distance. Our customers have been so considerate of each other with this. It is more comfortable for us as well.

What has NOT worked?  
Really, as we are set up for deliveries and curbside to begin with, and the changes we've implemented have worked, I wouldn't say there is anything that isn't working at this point.

What is the one most important thing you have learned during the past 4 months?
We are SO appreciative of our regular customers. With the cancellation of all events, we wondered how the summer would go. As with most businesses in the area, we rely on a very busy summer to carry us through the year, and without weddings or events we were concerned. However, our returning customers have supported us during this tough season and we are extremely grateful! Our reliable, talented, and patient staff has been invaluable as well (but we already knew that)!

A.R. Pontius Flower Shop, 592 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, 231-526-9690.
Louise McCready and Dilly Kirby keeping it safe and creative. Couture pearl masks were hand-beaded for us by Sis Fisher.

Elizabeth Kirby of Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls:
"Staying upbeat and happy has worked;
Most people don't want to complain"

What have you had to do differently since the pandemic began? 
We have had to limit the number of clients in the shop at one time. We HAVE done a few curbside deliveries, which are fun, and we don't share the restroom with guests. DUH.

What has worked? 
Staying upbeat and happy has worked. Most people don't want to complain and I don't want to incite negative conversations.
We added more items to our online shop and at one point offered free shipping.
Having masks for people is good too.
Hand sanitizer at checkout is also good.

What has NOT worked? 
Telling someone they have to wear a mask when there were other customers in the shop, one I knew was compromised. I offered a mask and the shopper turned on her heel and left. She was wearing some of my jewelry, so it was disappointing to lose a sale.

What is the one most important thing you have learned during the past 4 months?
 #1 Patience. And also good will and positive thoughts and delicious, varied home cooking.

Anything else you would like to share? 
Love our town and how we are all trying to make it work. And our awesome Post Office, FedEx and UPS carriers!

Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls , 115 W Main St, Harbor Springs, (231) 526-7500.
Keahna DePauw, Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry:
"We went through our entire supply of masks in two weeks"

What have you had to do differently since the pandemic began?  
Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry has worked hard to ensure every guest feels comfortable riding our motor vessels to Mackinac Island. Shepler's has reduced the capacity of the departing vessel to 60%/65% capacity to allow for social distancing.

What has worked?  
Reducing Shepler vessel capacity, requiring masks, and offering "Free shots! of hand sanitizer," have given guests a cushion to feel comfortable in our facilities.

What has NOT worked?  
Once Shepler's opened we were providing a mask to every guest who did not have a mask. In doing so we went through our entire supply of masks in the first two weeks. We could not keep up with the demand of handing each guest a mask who did not board with one. Instead we now offer them for a dollar in all of our ticket offices.

What is the one most important thing you have learned during the past 4 months?
Patience. Everyone is tense and is feeling a higher sense of stress during these times. I may have my viewpoints, but we need to take into consideration the viewpoints of those around us - even if we don't agree. Be patient with those around us and understand that we are not walking in their shoes and they are not in ours.

Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry 556 E Central Ave, Mackinaw City, (231) 436-5023.
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