AUBURN – Persistence, community, determination and perspective are key to sustaining a business during COVID-19 and beyond, four downtown Auburn business owners said Wednesday.
Those four words were their responses to a question posed by moderator Stephanie DeVito during the December edition of the Wednesday morning roundtable forum. Angela Daddabbo of Auburn Public Theater and CafÃ© 108, Luciana Torous of 3 Leaf Tea, Shannon Maggio of Historic Grounds Coffee and Erin Schillace of Zen Den Studio were asked to sum up their secret to maintaining a business in one word.
Maggio, who bought the cafe at 83 Genesee St. from Mark DiVietro last winter, shared his story of transitioning from raising seven children to running a business at the start of the forum.
She and her fellow business owners said they have been strongly supported by local resources such as SCORE, Cayuga Economic Development Agency, Auburn Town and the Downtown Business Improvement District of Auburn. But while these resources have helped local businesses secure grants and other funding, more intangible forms of support can be just as important, Maggio said.
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âThe people in your corner who support you, who are there for you, who give you a pat on the back and say ‘You are doing great’ they are invaluable,â she said. “The money can come and the money can go.”
Halfway through the forum, the conversation turned to COVID-19 and the ways the four business owners have adjusted to the pandemic since it began in March 2020.
Daddabbo and Schillace shared how they used Zoom to take Auburn’s public theater programs and online yoga classes, reaching people they couldn’t before the pandemic. Torous and Maggio recalled changing the way they run their businesses to make sure customers feel safe shopping for their tea and coffee, from online ordering and curbside pickup to protocols. sanitation facilities in their stores.
âYou have to be open to pivoting and changing your business model because there is a lot of uncertainty in the air for many restaurants and cafes,â Torous said.
The topic of the forum then turned to marketing. Daddabbo started off by saying “there’s no such thing as word of mouth”, which she has tried spreading at CafÃ© 108 since it opened last year. That could mean talking to clients at the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center, selling bread from The Patisserie to Skaneateles, or recommending companies like 3 Leaf Tea, Historic Grounds, and Zen Den.
âCollaboration rather than competition,â said Schillace. âWe’re all downtown, we all provide different services. Being able to find things that complement each other and make everyone’s business better is huge. Partnering up for different events, bringing people in from out of town, or sending projects to other places – these are all things that need to happen for our businesses to maintain (themselves). “
The forum ended with DeVito asking each business owner for their vision for Auburn’s future, during COVID-19 and beyond. After recalling how plentiful downtown parking was when she started running Daddabbo’s Pizza on Genesee Street in 2001, Daddabbo said it was a sign of the city’s success that these spaces had become so rare in the past 20 years.
âMy hope is that the trajectory continues and that we have more parking issues,â she said. “And the goods and services available continue to expand, the storefronts continue to expand until they are airtight. Every ground floor is occupied by something that thrives, and all upper levels are furnished. for housing, and the festivals continue and Auburn continues to thrive. “