Months later, Tampa Bay businesspeople nonetheless reeling, reacting to coronavirus shutdown

Again within the spring, the Tampa Bay Instances reached out to various enterprise house owners, employees and nonprofit operators to see what toll the coronavirus shutdown was taking over their livelihoods.

Some had been hit arduous. However nearly to an individual, they have been hopeful about coming by it intact. Just a few have been even utilizing it as a chance to strive one thing new.

We examine again in with them because the 12 months attracts to an in depth with COVID-19 circumstances and deaths spiking as soon as once more.

One enterprise proprietor was pressured to close down. A restaurant supervisor moved to a different employer and is dreaming of beginning his personal enterprise when the pandemic passes. Others are hanging on, nonetheless hopeful their fortunes will rise once more.

Right here’s what they informed us.

Jill Rice, 64, proprietor of Zaiya ArtiZen Market, Gulfport

Jill Rice had simply opened her boutique store in Gulfport, a lifelong dream for her retirement, in December 2019. Just a few months later, the pandemic threatened to shutter it for good.

In mid-March, she felt the beginnings of an intense sickness — which she suspects was COVID-19. It induced her to close down her retailer even earlier than the federal government required it, she mentioned. Rice recovered, however she wasn’t certain her new store would survive.

Earlier this month, she mentioned the assist she’s acquired at Zaiya ArtiZen Market has been nothing in need of “miraculous.”

“Typically I hesitate to say an excessive amount of about it as a result of I do know so many individuals … who’ve suffered,” she mentioned. “However I can’t think about a greater consequence than what I’ve had this 12 months.”

Rice attributes a lot of that success to the residents of Gulfport consciously selecting to assist companies of their group. Her store sells jewellery and clothes, in addition to the works of greater than 30 native artists, who obtain the majority of the proceeds when their items promote, she mentioned.

“I eat out every single day, I store native and everyone else is buying native, too,” she mentioned. “We’re supporting each other.”

Even with the pandemic, Rice mentioned she’s tripled the projections she set for her first 12 months. The success has allowed her to rent her first worker.

“‘To whom a lot is given, a lot is required,’ is my life’s philosophy,” Rice mentioned. “Everybody who retailers in right here, I thank them for supporting native artists, and I say: ‘It makes a distinction.’”


David Eliasson, proprietor of Snack Assault Merchandising, has seen his gross sales shrink considerably because the starting of the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured is Eliasson in Might. | [Scott Keeler | Times] [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

David Eliasson, 48, Snack Assault Merchandising proprietor, Tampa

The pandemic hasn’t stopped individuals from snacking, nevertheless it has modified the place they indulge: dwelling.

“I’m shocked and amazed that it continues,” David Eliasson mentioned.

Eliasson owns Snack Assault Merchandising, a Tampa-based merchandising machine snack provider. When the pandemic hit, his enterprise was greater than halved. Between 60 and 70 % of his purchasers are in workplace buildings, leaving him to deal with the remaining 40 % — largely warehouses.

In Might, he was working three supply routes alone. Since then, he has expanded barely, hiring a part-time driver as soon as every week to assist with deliveries.

However enterprise is way from again. How shortly it rebounds depends upon when different firms resume regular operations. Many have some degree of in-person staffing, however that doesn’t at all times translate into regained enterprise for Eliasson.

One retirement dwelling, for instance, paused its merchandising service for about three months on the outset of the pandemic and had its break rooms closed. Nobody was shopping for his snacks. It opened the break room once more later, however due to COVID-19 considerations, motion inside the constructing is restricted. Which means solely staff are allowed within the space the place his snacks are displayed, however not one of the residents.

Hospices have adopted the identical sample, Eliasson mentioned.

“Now I’m within the constructing,” he mentioned. “Not a lot is going on within the constructing, however I’m in.”

BKN Creative became profitable in October for the first time since March. The pandemic hit the small marketing firm hard. Pictured are co-founder and CEO Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic (left), social media and community Manager Shaniah Thompson (center) and co-founder and CCO Brandon Tydlaska-Dziedzic (right), as well as Mardy Tydlaska-Dziedzic, the Boston terrier chief bark officer in December. | [IVY CEBALLO | Times]
BKN Inventive turned worthwhile in October for the primary time since March. The pandemic hit the small advertising agency arduous. Pictured are co-founder and CEO Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic (left), social media and group Supervisor Shaniah Thompson (middle) and co-founder and CCO Brandon Tydlaska-Dziedzic (proper), in addition to Mardy Tydlaska-Dziedzic, the Boston terrier chief bark officer in December. | [IVY CEBALLO | Times] [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic, 34, and Brandon Tydlaska-Dziedzic, 33, BKN Inventive co-founders, Ybor

Ybor’s BKN Inventive was within the pink for seven months.

The pandemic had sheared 95 % of the budding advertising agency’s enterprise. Its two founders stopped paying themselves to maintain the remainder of their seven-person workforce on the payroll. However with out assist, they feared having to shut their 2-year-old enterprise by late spring.

So that they requested for assist.

CEO Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic and his husband, the agency’s chief inventive officer, utilized for federal and native pandemic help. They secured funds to pay their lease for 3 months and get assist with utilities, in addition to pay three of their staff, with a federal Paycheck Safety Program mortgage.

In October, they landed GTE Monetary as a shopper, making their agency worthwhile for the primary time since March.

“I used to be proud,” Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic mentioned. “I used to be happy with our workforce members and us not dropping hope and nonetheless persevering.”

Since then, the agency has taken on three interns from the College of South Florida, and Kevin Tydlaska-Dziedzic was requested to affix the board of the Coronary heart Gallery of Tampa, which connects foster kids with adoptive households.

In December, they gave every of their staff a bonus as a thanks for staying with them. Whereas the agency is on stronger footing than it was on the outset of the 12 months, its founders mentioned they’re working to construct up reserves and a plan going ahead.

“It helped us be taught the method for subsequent time if, God forbid, one thing like this occurs once more,” Brandon Tydlaska-Dziedzic mentioned.


Eric Carrasquillo, 36, of Ybor City, poses for a portrait outside of La La's Sangria Bar, which he manages, in Tampa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.
Eric Carrasquillo, 36, of Ybor Metropolis, poses for a portrait outdoors of La La’s Sangria Bar, which he manages, in Tampa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Eric Carrasquillo, 36, common supervisor at La La’s Sangria Bar, Tampa

Though the pandemic has continued to stunt the restaurant and bar business, it’s additionally pushed Eric Carrasquillo to develop.

When the coronavirus hit Florida, he was managing a brand new Tampa burger joint, Butter’s Burgers, that opened on a Friday the 13th in March and was pressured to close down shortly thereafter. He acquired unemployment advantages and in return was doing his finest to patronize as many native bars and eating places as he might to assist his mates and neighbors.

However he mentioned he had “irreconcilable variations” with the house owners of that restaurant over preserve the enterprise going in the course of the pandemic, so he determined this summer season to make a change.

Carrasquillo landed at La La’s Sangria Bar in Channelside, which simply celebrated its first anniversary. There, he had the thought to start out a month-to-month burlesque present — throughout which the performers additionally eat fireplace — so as to add to the institution’s weekly Drag Brunch. It’s an concept that he hopes sometime to include into his personal restaurant.

“For the final 18 years I’ve had the identical imaginative and prescient. I wish to open an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant, tapas fashion,” he mentioned. The pandemic has additionally given him the inspiration for its identify, which would slot in together with his idea for an open format: “I wish to name it ‘Social Distance.’”

The brand new present has been a hit, Carrasquillo mentioned, even with drastically restricted capability due to the pandemic. He began as a bartender at La La’s, however just lately was named the overall supervisor, he mentioned. By bringing in additional enterprise, he was capable of rent extra employees, together with mates he knew have been financially struggling.

The house owners at La La’s “imagine in my imaginative and prescient for my very own idea, and are going to associate with me,” he mentioned, noting that the coronavirus induced him to strive the brand new job. “I wouldn’t have any of those alternatives if not for the pandemic.”

However he cautioned that his story shouldn’t give the impression that the restaurant business is doing effectively.

“It’s not like this vaccine is popping out, and all the things goes again to regular,” he mentioned. “I believe persons are being reconditioned to how they spend their cash … I’m anxious about what 2021, 2022 will appear to be. Particularly if I wish to open my very own enterprise.”

Anthony Gregorio, 60, My Tampa DJ, Valrico

In Might, when the bars and eating places the place he leads karaoke have been simply starting to reopen, Anthony Gregorio was “residing the wrestle.”

Seven months later, it’s a lot of the identical.

“There’s no Christmas this 12 months,” he mentioned.

Gregorio estimates he has misplaced about $20,000 between cancelled gigs and pay cuts. The house owners of the struggling companies the place he usually works can’t all pay him the identical charges. His calendar for December, which used to convey large company events and regular checks, is barren by comparability.

Gregorio, 60, of Valrico, in busier  times.
Gregorio, 60, of Valrico, in busier instances. [ Photo courtesy Anthony Gregorio ]

“I’m working each week, however I solely have had 3 times the place I labored the entire week,” Gregorio mentioned. Even the Tampa Bay Lightning’s and Rays’ deep playoff runs, an thrilling distraction in a horrible 12 months, meant missed nights for a DJ, as a result of bars needed to indicate the video games.

“My prices have gone up as effectively,” Gregorio mentioned. He churns by throwaway microphone covers, about $100 for 1,200, and masses up on Clorox wipes. Nonetheless, he is aware of persons are apprehensive. A drunken evening belting out pop hits, surrounded by individuals grabbing the identical microphone, could be scary in a pandemic.

Gregorio tries to put on a masks, and he mentioned he’s fortunate to haven’t gotten the coronavirus. He has stopped bouncing across the crowd as usually to encourage individuals to sing. Suggestions are principally non-existent. The place he used to have 20 or 25 regulars in a nightly rotation, he’s now fortunate if there are a dozen.

Some, however not all, of his jobs are outdoors. At one Irish pub in Tampa, he used to see nurses and medical doctors off shifts at Tampa Normal Hospital. Not in 2020.

He’s behind on lease, electrical and water and is working towards fee plans for the utilities. As of early December, he mentioned, he owed about $1,500 for all of the payments. The federal government gave him a mortgage, Gregorio mentioned, nevertheless it was not sufficient to cowl all his bills.

Typically, he mentioned, mates decide him up packages of meals at Metropolitan Ministries.

He turned 60 in October. He mentioned he utilized for a job with Uber, nevertheless it went nowhere. This month, Gregorio mentioned his father was in a coma in Belize, the place he’s from. Docs thought it may need been a stroke and have been uncertain whether or not his dad would reside.

With quarantine suggestions, Gregorio mentioned he didn’t know if he would make it dwelling.


Yvette Lewis, 44, president of the Hillsborough County department of the NAACP

Yvette Lewis, president of NAACP Hillsborough County Branch
Yvette Lewis, president of NAACP Hillsborough County Department [ ALBERT FIELDS | Provided ]

As president of the Hillsborough department of the NAACP, Yvette Lewis has helped the native group shift to digital methods for reaching the group. In-person conferences that when drew 80 to 100 individuals at the moment are performed over Zoom. In July, the department began a Twitter account. Round September, it added one for Instagram, and extra just lately, a YouTube channel.

“We needed to actually step up 100 % with regards to social media and messaging and getting our info on the market,” Lewis mentioned.

This summer season, protests towards racial inequality swept the nation, and a pandemic that disproportionately hit Black communities spiked in Florida. Making an attempt to advocate for the group amid these challenges might be irritating, Lewis mentioned.

She prevented massive crowds and generally watched the protests from her automobile.

“You wish to be on the market with them however then you must preserve your self secure as effectively,” she mentioned.

With conferences held nearly, about 40 to 50 individuals attend. Lewis believes attendance is down as a result of some seniors don’t have entry to Zoom. It’s additionally tougher to speak with individuals, Lewis mentioned.

Nonetheless, she stays optimistic.

“We have now survived many issues, so COVID is just not going to get in our method,” she mentioned.

Darry Jackson, 72, Invoice Jackson’s Store for Journey, Pinellas Park

As Florida’s coronavirus depend ticked up this spring and other people started to remain dwelling, Darry Jackson anxious for his household enterprise.

However by mid-November, Invoice Jackson’s Store for Journey — within the household since 1946 — had posted its finest 12 months ever.

“I hate to say it with some individuals out of labor,” Jackson mentioned. “We’re very lucky.”

Darry Jackson, of Pinellas Park, visits with a customer on Wednesday, May 20 at Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park.
Darry Jackson, of Pinellas Park, visits with a buyer on Wednesday, Might 20 at Invoice Jackson’s Store for Journey in Pinellas Park. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The shop offered double the variety of paddle boards as final 12 months, he estimated. Kayaks stayed standard. So did fishing gear and weapons. For a time in the summertime, with retail capability reductions, staff saved clients ready outdoors.

Jackson estimated he has about 53 staffers, roughly the identical as final vacation season.

“Individuals, they wish to be sensible and so they wish to social distance, however they wish to have enjoyable,” Jackson mentioned. “The stuff we do within the outside is all the things proper that folks needs to be doing to be secure.”

As winter units in, gross sales of ski gear have dropped. Persons are not flying out west to go to the mountains.

He obtained the coronavirus in November, struggling delicate signs after a visit to Jamaica, he mentioned. Jackson had felt secure, he mentioned, as a result of he and his girlfriend wanted to indicate proof of a destructive take a look at to get on the flight.

The toughest half for his staff has been imposing masks necessities.

“Individuals are available in not carrying a masks, and it’s arduous as a result of we’re making an attempt to do the fitting factor,” he mentioned. “We’ve had some individuals who have stubborn at us. We needed to name the police as soon as.”

He hopes a results of the pandemic is that extra persons are conscious of the experiences they will have in nature.

“When you go down a spot like Rainbow (River) or Chassahowitzka or Homosassa, you’ll return once more,” Jackson mentioned. “There’s going to be lots of people doing stuff outside sooner or later as a result of they obtained launched to it now.”


Kiran Bahl, 41, proprietor of Gro Kinds An Indian Boutique, Temple Terrace

Kiran Bahl had been build up clients regionally and abroad for her conventional clothes retailer in Temple Terrace, Gro Kinds An Indian Boutique, when she observed gross sales in the beginning of the 12 months coming in slowly.

However it was okay, she thought. That’s how most years begin.

Till it wasn’t okay.

Kiran Bahl, owner of Gro Styles An Indian Boutique in Tampa, poses inside her store which caters to customers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh among other places. Business came to a halt during the shutdown.
Kiran Bahl, proprietor of Gro Kinds An Indian Boutique in Tampa, poses inside her retailer which caters to clients from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh amongst different locations. Enterprise got here to a halt in the course of the shutdown. [ Courtesy of Kiran Bahl ]

With gatherings similar to weddings postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus, and shipments from India delayed, Bahl misplaced out on so many gross sales that she closed the 16-year-old Tampa retailer in September.

“We actually had zero gross sales the final couple of months,” Bahl mentioned.

She began the enterprise in Orlando 18 years in the past, then expanded to Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. By the point the pandemic began, she was down to only the Tampa retailer. As spring gross sales began taking a dive, Bahl hoped to depend on on-line gross sales, together with promoting reductions on Fb and thru phrase of mouth.

”However nothing,” she mentioned.

From March till the shop’s closing, Bahl was capable of get just one field of bangles from India, she mentioned.

She tried making use of for federal small enterprise loans, however that didn’t pan out. She mentioned she was informed that as a result of she had no staff, she didn’t qualify.

For now, she’s promoting off the remainder of her stock on-line with a 50 % sale and has no plans of reopening.

”I’d simply inform anybody and everybody to only assist your native companies,” Bahl mentioned.


Daniel de la Rosa, 54, proprietor of De La Rosa Journey, Tampa

With planes as soon as once more taking off, working hours on the De La Rosa Journey company have expanded because it reopened in Might following pandemic lockdowns.

Clients on the lookout for flights to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, even to Cuba, can now contact Daniel de la Rosa’s employees weekdays from 10 a.m. to six p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Daniel de la Rosa, owner of De La Rosa Travel in Tampa, poses with staff outside of his travel agency's office. He has re-opened his agency for Cuban passport processing and remittance payments to Cuba.
Daniel de la Rosa, proprietor of De La Rosa Journey in Tampa, poses with employees outdoors of his journey company’s workplace. He has re-opened his company for Cuban passport processing and remittance funds to Cuba. [ Courtesy of Osmar Tamayo ]

However the coronavirus continues to forged a shadow over the enterprise, with gross sales 45 % decrease than they have been the identical time final 12 months. And solely three of the 5 staffers are working within the workplace at a time, as a consequence of security considerations, de la Rosa mentioned.

In Might, remittances, or cash transfers, to Cuba, which the company additionally handles, have been down by 70 %, in line with de la Rosa. However now all such enterprise is closed after Western Union stopped sending cash to Cuba from america in late November following the most recent American sanctions on the island as reported by Reuters.

For now, de la Rosa hopes tourism journey will decide up subsequent 12 months.


Glenda Maiden, 43, director of programming and manufacturing, Tampa Bay Arts & Training Community

Glenda Maiden, third from the right, poses for a holiday photo with the other staff members at the Tampa Bay Arts and Entertainment Network.
Glenda Maiden, third from the fitting, poses for a vacation picture with the opposite employees members on the Tampa Bay Arts and Leisure Community. [ Courtesy of Glenda Maiden ]

It’s been a busy 12 months for Glenda Maiden, director of programming and manufacturing on the Tampa Bay Arts & Training Community.

Originally of the pandemic, the nonprofit community postponed a number of initiatives and performed reruns. Now, utilizing its digital platforms, it has helped with initiatives similar to an NAACP political discussion board, a Tampa Bay Community to Finish Starvation digital convention and Florida Aquarium Night Tide Talks.

“We’re doing sort of like Zoom, nevertheless it’s just a little bit extra in depth,” Maiden mentioned.

All year long, Maiden has balanced these duties with caring for her husband, Scott Maiden, who was present process therapy for lymphoma, and her two children, 12 and 9.

Scott Maiden — who serves as CEO of the community — is in remission, and the couple has determined to maintain the youngsters in digital college, contemplating his well being and and that of two members of the family with bronchial asthma.

The community is working with the NAACP on a historical past of Tampa’s African American historical past. It acquired a Telly Award this 12 months for one more video it did with the Hillsborough NAACP.

It has been capable of preserve all six staff, because of a federal Paycheck Safety Program mortgage, and none of its 12 internships was canceled. However with the opportunity of state grant funding cuts subsequent 12 months, Maiden worries in regards to the community’s future funds.

“It’s essential to assist nonprofits,” she mentioned. “We have been lucky to get that PPP mortgage, and that basically saved us from having to chop anybody.”

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