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Stories of Pandemic Pivots in St. Augustine

It has been a rough year for all of us – not only for individuals, but for businesses as well. Many companies have had to make major pivots in the way they do business in order to keep people safe and continue to keep their operations running smoothy. We talked with some local St. Augustine business owners and employees to get the scoop on what changes they made to survive this pandemic and learned the creative ways that people have problem solved to alter the way they do business in a pandemic.

Art with a Heart in Healthcare

“Art with a Heart in Healthcare has needed to pivot to a virtual art sessions to continue to work with the patients and families in the hospital setting. Our artists have made more than 60 art videos and 100’s of coloring sheets for our patients and families to take part in. Everyone needs art right now!” – Christy Ponder


The Spice & Tea Exchange®

“When this pandemic started earlier this year, it changed the social dynamics of festivals, events and gatherings. With these changes, it has slowed down our business economy and hurt many businesses. Fortunately, for The Spice & Tea Exchange it has brought more people back to cooking at home. We have enhanced it with more wellness products for example – a lot of fun new blends, new recipes and learning from the local chefs.” – Colleen Messner


Southern Vibes Tasting

“We had to drastically reduce the seating in the restaurant due to the occupancy regulations. We are unable to offer classes in the restaurant, but we can do small private off site classes. We will continue to offer our wines and a full menu. Our menu created by Chef Julio Vargas will change seasonally and based upon product availability. The off site classes will remain part of our offerings.” – Alayna


Andy’s Taylor True Value Rental

“Our products have not changed but the needs of the customers have. People began working from home, which triggered working on home projects that had been put off. Party tents became drive through COVID-19 testing sites, outside extensions for restaurants and title agencies. Since half of our income comes from Parties and Events, the financial impact from cancellations has been a tough pill to swallow. We were highly impacted from all of the Annual Festivals, Weddings, Graduations and Backyard Parties. We have learned the value of switching gears.” – Amy Fowdy


Catch 27

“When I decided to open a restaurant back in 2012 I didn’t expect to deal with hurricanes and pandemics. But, as a business owner it is my job to problem solve the small things that pop up every day and the big things that sometimes happen. I’ll continue to wake up and make the best decisions I can with the information that I have in order to do the next right thing. When we reopened we changed our menu to be better for togo food and lowered our prices to be more accommodating given these tough times.” – Stephen Hutson


Shores & Murabella Animal Hospital

“We were on a path to open a second location which landed right in the middle of COVID and shutdowns. We moved forward and opened our second location at Shores Animal Hospital on April 4th, right in the middle of the first wave of shutdowns. It was eerie. The other businesses around us were closed – hair salon, restaurant, insurance agency and here we are, opening and trying to attract customers, putting up banners and signs. Not at all how I envisioned our opening.” – Ryan Meyer – Hospital Director


St. Augustine Sailing

“St. Augustine Sailing has always been a safe and perfect experience for groups/families and couples looking for a unique was to experience St. Augustine. With our smaller number of guests aboard our sailing vessels, we have been able to continue to offer these very custom sailing adventures to our guests in spite of the pandemic. We want our guests to feel confident that they can leave the stress that has come with COVID behind for a bit and truly enjoy a day or evening on the water with friends and family.” – Rose Ann Points


Bayfont Marin House

“We’ve made some adjustments—we leave little notes on the breakfast trays, which include a joke each day. We take extra care presenting our food, using that medium to show our love for our guests and our jobs. And we do talk to people in the patio if they’re comfortable with that, we all wear masks and stand about eight feet apart to be safe. We miss the close interaction with our guests, but we think making everyone comfortable and keeping everyone safe is a worthy trade off. Any challenge you face—hurricanes, recessions, whatever—is a chance to look at your business and ask yourself how you can do something better. Responding to the current climate has actually improved our guest’s overall experience, and we don’t plan on changing any of that! (Although we do look forward to being able to hug our brides again!)” – Sandy Wieber


Knight Barry Title

“We used Remote Online Notarization (RON) and actually completed our first RON transaction in the entire company here in St. Augustine. I think RON is here to stay and the pandemic accelerated the launch of it. RON will allow people to handle the scheduling of real estate closing more on their terms and times using 24-hour clock.” – Vickie Rianda, Branch Manager


Raintree Restaurant 

“The Raintree was closed for 2.5 months starting on March 18 and reopened Memorial Day weekend. We have made little to no change in our product, we are now back to offering our full menu. To go sales are higher than normal but our outdoor dining and spaced seating in our dining rooms have allowed us to service our guests quite well. St. Augustine still appears to be drawing tourists and business has been good since reopening, we are lucky that we have a large restaurant and courtyard for service.” – Lorna MacDonald


Panache – Aveda Store, Salon, and Spa

“Our biggest pivot during the mandatory close down was, obviously, generating revenue with closed doors. We leaned heavily on curbside retail and gift card sales and focused more on the retail side of business as we could not focus on the service side. However, our biggest pivot was putting a heightened focus on our core mission of treating our guest from scalp to soul. Since we couldn’t cut or color hair, we decided to really focus on the well-being of our guests. We ran a call center every day so that we could reach out to every guest booked during our temporary closure, connect with them, listen, and just truly be there as support for them. While it wasn’t necessarily a capitol generating endeavor, it was good for our souls and good for our guest’s souls as well.” – Michelle Vijgen


Declaration & Co. 

“Our model is a clothing and gift shop and the focus has always been on in-store experiences and gifting. However we had to close down for two months and permanently close our newest customer experience project which was The Homeroom. Our pivot was still within our capabilities, gift boxes, and we spent about 1 week planning and launched 20+ versions that were themed and ready to ship. If it wasn’t for the gift boxes we would have never been able to keep our entire team running since the start of the pandemic.” – Steve


Churchill & Lacroix Antiquaire

“Most certainly Churchill & Lacroix’s business is off due to Covid-19-induced loss of tourism. If ever there was a single, simple way to demonstrate once and for all the economic importance of tourism to the City of St. Augustine and to show the many amenities tourism has provided to City residents as well as it’s visitors, it is the economic effects brought on by the Covid-19 experience and the accompanying reduction in tourism.”


MasterCraft Builder Group

“The new home industry moves at a very fast pace, and changing with the times is of utmost importance. While our model homes remain open, we offer one-on-one appointments with prospects so that they are not subjected to being onsite with a large crowd. We also offer virtual tours, and video conferencing for those who do not feel comfortable being in public. In addition, when COVID-19 started having impacts on St. Johns County, we chose to stick to our values and offer peace of mind for our customers. As a semi-custom homebuilder and community developer in St. Johns County for almost 10-years, we partnered with Turner Pest Control to offer TurnerClean Disinfection Misting Service to disinfect all of our new homes before customers move in.” – Victoria


Boles Law Firm

“Our business has not been forced to make changes to our product (Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Pre-Medicaid Eligibility, Probate). However, we have changed the way we service our clients including teleconferences and video conferencing when possible. We initially engaged in “curbside execution ceremonies” until the temperature reached 95°! Now we are following the physicians model of clients ushered into our conference room to sign in person. Our conference table accommodates social distancing and sanitizing between each client visit. Although this season has been complicated, our staff feels we have grown closer as we respond to the challenges.”


Bill Miller Real Estate

“Without a doubt the pandemic has forced us to make changes. Due to the amount of 1 on 1 contact that Residential Real Estate “USUALLY” requires, Covid-19 forced either a shut down or change. Being able to adapt into the Virtual Showing world was necessary. FaceTime was something we do use, but the customers wanted a MORE real life experience. Adding Matterport (3-D Scan) made this immediately possible for all of my listings. Even now, prior to showings, I request the buyers or buyer’s agent review the Matterport with their buyer PRIOR to showings.” – Bill


Carrera Wine Cellar

“The pandemic has definitely had an impact on us. We consider our family owned shop a wine destination, similar to the show Cheers, an ‘everyone knows your name place’. You were able to come in and enjoy wine and charcuterie boards on comfortable chairs inside or outside in our wine garden. With this pandemic, we had to stop all beverage consumption on premise. We have been able to stay open, providing sales of bottles and charcuterie boards to go. We have had to brainstorm and get creative with new ideas being implemented like Zoom Wine Tastings and Zoom Bingo Nights. We have become stronger together as a team, working together to brainstorm to ensure we survive this pandemic.” – Jessica Stern


WellSpring Counseling and Health

“Many of us are resistant to change in the beginning, but change and crisis is always an opportunity for growth. It allows a new way of seeing. The Chinese symbol for crisis is danger and opportunity. Our Health Coach, Kim Hynes, has published a client’s journal. Erica Otto RMHCI, has created an online Pain Management course and Melissa Muller LMHC is writing a book. These creative endeavors came to fruition during our busiest season as counselors and did not arise out of free time.” – Kathleen Abbott, MSW, LMCHC


Small Indulgences Day Spa

“Since reopening, we have added some new services. Since wearing a mask is now a part of our routine, we have added Microblading and Lash Extensions. (And absolutely love them!!) Since “mascne” has been becoming an ever growing problem, we have been doing more Hydrafacials as well! Additionally, our massage department is staying very steady, as massage in itself boosts the immune system! Aside from safety, I believe self image and self care are at the highest priority for 2020. It is up to us individually to do things that are healthy for us, and make us happy!” – Melissa Clements


Tembo CPA

“When we formed Tembo, we did so with the goal of enabling our team to be able to work from anywhere in the world they can find an internet connection and still be able to deliver solutions to our clients. Because of this, our transition to working remotely due to Covid-19 has been extremely smooth. As a CPA firm that prioritizes communication with our small businesses and entrepreneurs, we have been able to keep our clients quickly informed of the tax and business changes that were evolving quickly. We developed new services for our clients in order to help them maximize the benefits of the new laws. This pandemic has changed our team for the better in many ways – improved communication, delivering innovative solutions, and finding new ways to connect to our team and our clients.”


Orangetheory Fitness

“We have reduced our class sizes for social distancing and use every other rower, treadmill and floor station. We also had to close off showers and water fountains. Our coaches wear masks and eye protection. It has impacted our business in some ways but our classes are still the best one-hour workout in the country. We keep our studios safe and clean as we try to protect our staff and our members during these difficult times. We must stay strong, hopeful and creative in the things we can do to make sure our members are able to do what they like to do – stay fit and healthy so they can have More Life.” – Leslie Baccash & Ashley Taylor


By Design Catering

“The wedding and catering industry came to a halt two weddings into our busiest season. To date, we’ve rescheduled 27 weddings and events costing us tens of thousands of dollars. Thankfully, in 2018 By Design Catering started a ready to eat meal delivery service called BDC Meal Prep. Once the shutdown occurred, BDC Meals was able to fill in the gap for the loss in sales with increased orders for our weekly service. The time we had spent on By Design Catering could now be spent building and supporting BDC Meals. BDC Meals saw a dramatic increase in organic weekly orders and, a result of COVID, we now have a subscription service that is growing weekly too.” – Tasha Peters


Old City PR

“It’s almost an oxymoron to say that you’re running a successful public relations company during a pandemic because so much of what we do is based on relationship building. That being said, everyone’s in the same boat. Most events have been canceled, are on a much smaller scale, or have switched to Zoom or some other form of digital conferencing. Sure, it’s better for us to have in-person meetings and attend events, but we’re still making connections in other (still meaningful) ways.” – Kara Pound


Pirate Museum

“While we have always strived to make our museum a safe place for our guests, we have had the chance to really observe that aspects of safety and visitor protection can always be improved – and we are consistently working to make them even better. We installed protections at our ticket/cashier desk at the museum entrance, as well as placing hand sanitizer throughout the museum for our guests. We also do exhibition/display cleanings throughout the day and offer cotton swab “styluses” for our touch screen exhibitions. We’ve noticed that our customers seem to be pleased that our venue shows that we care about them and their safety.” – Zachary


Hybrid Design

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw some hesitation on the part of our clients to spend money on advertising. There were just so many unknowns—businesses were scrambling to figure out how to stay relevant in the marketplace without over-extending themselves financially. Some of our clients had huge events cancelled, and some had to deal with the inevitable losses that came with lock-down and the ongoing pressures of the pandemic. It was our job to find ways to help them continue to generate sales in the most practical, cost-effective methods possible. During this time, we’ve seen a bigger focus than ever on digital advertising. Clients appreciate being able to create incredibly focused, targeted campaigns for a relatively modest media buy.” – Kerry


Hagan Ace 

“On the fly… we had to figure out the best way to still serve our customers and keep them safe as home improvement supplies and cleaning products were in extremely high demand. The virus has had a major impact on all of our supply chains. Our buyers are working around the clock to get product in the stores and keep it coming. We feel very blessed to even be open as we know many of our fellow business owners have not made it through this extremely tough time. It’s why we are also continuing to make sure we follow through on our corporate giving program to our community groups who need it most. We want to remain always essential, forever helpful. That’s what Hagan Ace is all about!” – Bill Hagan & Jacob Hagan


Habitat for Humanity 

“As many of our supporters are feeling the financial strain of the outbreak as well, the financial contributions have been fewer over the last few months. The decrease in these funds and the additional expenditures as a result of COVID-19 has impacted Habitat St. Augustine’s ability to complete the homes under construction and carry out the mission of providing safe, decent and affordable housing to families need of shelter. The pandemic has increases awareness of the affordable housing issues in our country. While citizens were asked to shelter in place, it became apparent that not everyone was able todo so. Habitat’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Our hope is that more people will advocate for affordable housing and our vision will become a reality.” – Malinda Everson


Creme De La Cocoa

“The silver lining to it all has been that we are all able to step back for awhile and find ways to change for the better. Our business has adapted and, while it’s certainly been a challenge, we are proud to say that we were able to keep our team employed and that we have all worked together to provide these new services and make them as safe and seamless as possible.” – Bailey


Prestige Settlement Associates

“Prestige Settlement Associates always strives to deliver The Prestige Promise to their customers. The emergence of COVID-19 has not held us back from delivering on our promise. For us, it has been business as usual. In accordance with CDC guidelines we have had to adapt our everyday procedures to help minimize the chance of spreading the virus to our community. The new policies that our office has implemented have been welcomed by all our clients.” – Wendy


Trinity Episcopal Learning Center

“In March 2020, we left for Spring Break and sadly, didn’t return until August 10th. We did offer distant learning for the 3’s and 4’s but they still missed out on so many things like spring field trips, water day, Mother’s Day tea, not to mention valuable academic time. Our enrollment for the 2020-21 school year is down from where we normally are at this time of the school year. Parents are afraid to send their children to school. The long term repercussion of children not having a solid academic foundation or organized learning environment could be devastating. Our school, like many preschools, go far beyond just childcare.” – Tammy


Coastal Coordinating

“We created packages to accommodate smaller, more intimate weddings or even just a “ceremony package” as well as micro-wedding options. I think this season has brought vendors in the industry even closer together. We all have a business and have to make certain calls to stay afloat, whether its non-refundable deposits or charging a fee to move their date. There was a lot of open communication and great conversations that came out of this.” – Brittany


Eclipse Records/Forensics

“We lost a lot of bookings so we began shooting videos for free of local acts that had lost all of their work, to enable people to view from home and make donations to them. We have done about 40 so far and will shoot again Tuesday. We began in March broadcasting at 7 and 9 pm and that continues nightly today.” – Jim


The Gillis Law Firm

“During the pandemic, I had to switch gears (constantly) between zoom hearings and pouring juice and making lunch for my 5-year-old. I had to take breaks in the day to play dinosaurs with my youngest, and to help my oldest with his virtual school. In the midst of the Covid chaos, I went from getting out of bed to sitting at my desk in my home office with the only transition being coffee in between and the amount of time it took to brew. I regularly apologized to the client or opposing counsel who endured my child screeching in the hallway outside my home-office door while he pretended to be Optimus Prime or T-Rex, or any myriad of super heroes- people understood, and were similarly situated with their own set of struggles taking them outside the accepted professional environment. We made it work though, and we can continue to make this more family-centered approach to the work-life feasible.” – Adrianne Gillis


Jennifer Cook – RE/MAX Leading Edge

“During the past several months, we have been reminded just how special it is to have a safe and comforting place to call “home.” Helping families find the right home to fit their lifestyle, needs, and desires is what I love most about working in real estate, and I look forward to continuing to serve my customers in the most innovative and thoughtful ways.” – Jennifer Cook


Law Station

“For my work as an attorney, I have attended all of my hearings via Zoom and had a full trial with my client and 7 witnesses via Zoom. I had to briefly train each witnesses on Zoom so that everything would run smoothly on the day of trial. I have conducted mediation via Zoom and have attending continuing education virtually as well.” -Melissa


Tucker Joenz Photography

“I would normally be slammed during this time with concert and music photography as well as portraits. Even portraits are slower since people are wary of being around other people. I’ve had to take on a different type of photography with concerts and music not happening this year. I’ve pivoted to Architecture and Food. This pandemic has made people have to think outside of the box and find ways to keep going with the craft and services that you do. I’ve seen this with so many business owners and creatives during this pandemic.” – Tucker


Solar Stik

“Regarding the way we do business, only the venue has changed. Solar Stik takes pride in truly understanding our customer’s application and mission. Building a strong, long lasting relationship allows us to fully serve in exactly the right capacity. Although meeting with customers in person has obviously been reduced, we continue to grow our relationship via other available vehicles of communications.” – Darung Mann


Island Prep School

“Since we are an elementary school and preschools it has affected everything about the way we operate and the protocols we have in place. Everything about the way we teach has had to be relearned and we have really had to think outside the box for new ideas as to how we can reach our students and meet their educational and developmental needs while keeping the integrity of the school’s hands-on philosophy alive.” – Kate Batzel


Vrum Planning

“What a wild time. As a business who’s final product, in our case reports that represent public input on projects, the public meeting process was turned on its head. We were in the middle of a state grant awarded by the a governor and had to press pause on our 3 day visioning workshop. After a couple weeks of research and changing our work plan, we executed virtual zoom public meetings, workshops with elected officials and online surveys. What was at first the impossible task, resulted in a tenfold response rate!” – Heather Neville


Comment below to tell us how you’ve made pivots during this pandemic. We would love to hear about the changes you and your businesses have made during these unusual times. 

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