Local businesses find ways to survive under COVID-19 restrictions

Two Brothers Winery co-owner Donna Kirkwood moved inventory out of storage as she shifted to new sales strategies. (Cass Clements/Community Impact Newspaper)
Two Brothers Winery co-owner Donna Kirkwood moved inventory out of storage as she shifted to new sales strategies. (Cass Clements/Community Impact Newspaper)

Two Brothers Winery co-owner Donna Kirkwood moved inventory out of storage as she shifted to new sales strategies. (Cass Clements/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
(Renee Yan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
(Cass Clements/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than a month after coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Two Brothers Winery in Keller is still discovering what works.

Co-owner Donna Kirwood said the winery continues to make wine but has cut back hours and shifted to curbside pickup and to-go options as well as delivery, Kirkwood said. She said she is also experimenting with wine pairings for local restaurants and virtual tastings to stay engaged with the community.

“We have to stay positive,” Kirkwood said. “You are either going to let it take you down or make you better.”

Businesses large and small across Keller, Roanoke and Northeast Fort Worth are looking at how to stay afloat amid various shelter-in-place orders.

A majority of the more than 1,200 respondents to a city of Fort Worth survey on effects from the coronavirus in late March reported revenue decreases of more than 80%, said Robert Sturns, the city’s economic development director.


“A lot of small businesses do not have the wherewithal to operate more than 30 days without income coming in,” Sturns said.

The survival of small businesses is essential to the nation’s ability to regain footing once this crisis is over, said Paul Nichols, executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Dallas.

“They can throttle up a lot quicker,” he said. “The problem, though, is that they also don’t have the resources of a juggernaut, so they tend to throttle down a lot faster, too.”

The two main federal relief efforts—the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan—ran out of money in early April, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Additional funding for businesses was still being discussed as of press time April 22.

Nichols said it is important that business owners focus on finding the relief that is right for them.

“They need to really be spending some time reading and researching because these are things that are changing by the day,” he said.

It is all about settling into a “new normal,” said Chris Wells, co-owner of The Classic Cafe in Roanoke.

A staple of the Unique Dining Capital of Texas since the mid-1990s, The Classic Cafe was forced to go from white-tablecloth fine dining to curbside pickup and delivery within three days, Wells said.

Staff have implemented a number of procedures. No one is allowed inside the building, staff have sequestered themselves, and all products delivered by vendors are sanitized, Wells said. Six-foot social distancing and other guidelines are also being observed for curbside and pickup orders.

“There is no guidebook here,” Wells said.

Companies of all sizes have been forced to reinvent themselves in the wake of the crisis.

Made By Sue in Keller aims to make 10,000 cotton face masks to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus, owner Sue Pruente said. The shop has received a number of donations so it can provide face masks for fire departments, large offices and even family members at Dyess Air Force Base, she said.

“I cannot sit here and do nothing and treat this like a vacation,” Pruente said. “If I’ve got the fabric and the knowledge to make them quickly, how can I?”

The Hey Sugar candy store in Roanoke has found some success with new services, according to Lindsay Anderson, Hey Sugar’s director of operations. Popular items have included do-it-yourself waffle kits, featuring two cones, a pint of ice cream, sprinkles and spoons, and Easter baskets, Anderson said.

With unemployment claims 32 times higher than they were at this time last year, according to the April 4 Federal Reserve Economic Data, protecting the local workforce is especially crucial, officials said.

But many industries are struggling. The National Restaurant Association has estimated that more than 688,000 restaurant employees in Texas have been laid off or furloughed in connection with the outbreak, according to an April 20 news release.

The lack of events at the Texas Motor Speedway has cut business at the nearby Comfort Suites in Roanoke in half, co-owner Tina Patel said. And although employees are willing to work, there are fewer shifts to go around, she said.

One silver lining is long-term tenants, who make up about 25% of the 88-room hotel’s current clientele.

Patel has also instituted a number of changes to cut costs, including not renting the top floor of the three-story building. Housekeeping services have been limited to upon-request only, and select high-dollar items, such as Greek yogurt, have been removed as breakfast options.

“I have been in the hotel business a little over 15 years, and I have never seen anything like this,” Patel said.

The biggest impact for Bob Stephenson, co-owner of FnG Eats in Keller, has been on staff, he said.

“I have cut my staff down to a quarter of what it was,” he said. “I had 45 employees.”

But with adversity comes new ideas, he said.

“We went through something similar with 9/11,” Stephenson said. “We had to think about how we could be more efficient with what we do and still be able to take care of the guest.”

Leaning on Stephenson’s background in Italian cooking, the restaurant has broadened its menu and is now offering a full list of take-and-bake options along with a soup of the day.

The Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce has launched several campaigns to support businesses. The latest is a T-shirt fundraiser. T-shirts with the slogan, “Eat Local. Shop Local. Spend Local. Enjoy Keller,” and the names and logos of nearly 40 businesses and individuals are being sold to benefit the community, according to the chamber.

Together, the various efforts will make a difference, Keller Mayor Pat McGrail said.

“I believe in the innovation and integrity of this community,” he said. “I believe in our passion to serve one another, and I believe in our ability to get through anything.”

Olivia Lueckemeyer contributed to this report.
By Ian Pribanic
Ian Pribanic covers city government, transportation, business and education news for Community Impact Newspaper in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth areas. A Washington D.C. native and University of North Texas graduate, Ian was previously an editor for papers in Oklahoma, West Texas and for Community Impact in New Braunfels.


MOST RECENT

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 5. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
National Voter Registration Day reminds citizens to register with two weeks left before deadline

On National Voter Registration Day, citizens in Tarrant County are reminded to register by Oct. 5 in order to cast their ballot during the Nov. 3 election.

The city of Roanoke saw the largest year-over-year decrease in July sales tax collections, at 16.86%. (Community Impact staff)
Data: Sales tax revenue increases year over year in Keller, decreases in Fort Worth, Roanoke

Year to date, sales tax allocations for Keller have totaled $9.44 million, which represents a 13.3% increase compared to the same time last year.

Free To Move And Play opened in Keller in July. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Free To Move And Play now open in Keller

The goal at Free To Move And Play is to help children gain mobility and development.

Main Street Food Hall is expected to open in Frisco in 2021. (Courtesy Bryan Brickman)
Food hall coming to Frisco in 2021 and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurant is now open in north Fort Worth. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurant now open in north Fort Worth

A Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurant location officially opened in July.

Amaretto Cake is among the cakes, cupcakes and cookies that Rum Cakes Factory sells. (Courtesy Rum Cakes Factory)
Rum Cakes Factory opens in Plano and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the DFW area.

Among ZIP codes in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth area, 76244 has the greatest number of new confirmed cases reported between Sept. 8-17, with 60. (Community Impact staff)
Tracking COVID-19: Number of new confirmed cases continues to decline in Tarrant, Denton counties

Tarrant County Public Health has confirmed 285 new coronavirus cases in the county in the past 24 hours.

The cookie delivery company is opening a new location this fall. (Courtesy Tiff's Treats)
Tiff's Treats coming soon to north Fort Worth

Tiff’s Treats will open a storefront in north Fort Worth off of I-35W in October.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Sept. 17 that data from Texas' 22 hospital regions will dictate when certain businesses can reopen at 75% capacity. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

Nursing home and long-term care facilities will also be allowed to reopen for visitation as early as Sept. 24.

A group of people with shovels
Medical City Alliance breaks ground on $10M ambulatory surgery center

The new ambulatory surgery center for Medical City Alliance, expected to be completed in early 2021, is in addition to a $51 million expansion at the hospital.