Local businesses discuss difficulties during the pandemic


Top Photo - Icicle Brewing trains bartenders to qualify for national recognition Bottom photo - Lines are beginning to form at popular restaurants like Munchen Haus in Leavenworth
As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, downtown businesses are reopening. These businesses have faced significant challenges in operating throughout the pandemic. Some businesses, like München Haus and Icicle Brewing Company, had trouble hiring enough staff as they opened back up again. 
 
“It's definitely been harder because I think everyone is hiring at the same time to build up their team again,” said Pamela Brulotte, owner of Icicle Brewing Company and München Haus. 
 
Brulotte said that she has posted on many places looking for employees including the Wenatchee Valley College website, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Brewbound, a website that advertises brewery jobs. Quite a few employees of Brulotte’s two businesses changed jobs or moved out of town and she is just starting to build up her staff again. 
 
Another way that Brulotte is attracting staff for the brewery is through an expanded employee training program to train those with little to no experience to work at a brewery or train current staff with further professional development. Meanwhile at München Haus, Brulotte has been hiring younger employees, relying on 14 year olds to keep her business running smoothly.
 
Other businesses do not face the same staffing issues. At Schocolat, a shop which sells a variety of handmade chocolates, owner Andrew DeMoss has kept a small staff without too many shortages in labor but one big issue has been difficulties in his supply chain. 
 
Sometimes, DeMoss had to change suppliers quickly if he couldn’t get what he needed from them. DeMoss places orders well in advance and orders more supplies at a time to mitigate supply chain shortages. Some of Schocolat’s suppliers, like packaging, come from overseas, making obtaining supplies during a pandemic especially difficult.
 
The cost of raw materials has also gone up during the pandemic, causing significant price increases in the cost to produce a product. Another challenge is figuring out how many staff to hire. Demoss has had to be conservative with the number of staff that he has rehired because of variable business during the pandemic.
 
Both DeMoss and Brulotte expressed how uncertain business was during the pandemic. Demoss took out a small business loan from Cashmere Valley Bank. One thing that helped him to stay afloat was a few big commercial orders which came through early on in the pandemic. Brulotte said that with the sudden closure of both of her businesses and worries about the future of her businesses she had to pivot quickly and make important decisions so her business could survive. 
 
Besides the financial side of things, businesses need to make sure they operate safely. Brulotte invested in precautions to help keep her business and employees safe. She bought personal protective equipment for all of her employees and air purifiers for her businesses. When the shutdown started, her manager put together care packages including necessities like beans, rice, and toilet paper for all of her employees.
 
Schocolat is also working to operate in a safe manner. While emerging from the pandemic, DeMoss is still taking precautions. At Schocolat, employees are still wearing masks. Sampling of chocolates is still shut down because of the risk of transmission. Reduced capacity of visitors in the shop is still in place. 
 
Now over a year into the pandemic, a return to normality is occurring. DeMoss said that he is back to a steady customer flow with purchase levels returning to normal levels at his chocolate shop. Despite the uncertainty, Demoss said that he is optimistic for the future.
 
“Really I'm pretty optimistic coming out of this thing looks like we're getting back to ‘normal’ much quicker than a lot of people anticipated. So that's really encouraging,” DeMoss said. 
 
As she is hiring new employees since things return to normal, Brulotte is focused on increasing diversity in her staff and providing training opportunities. One benefit to working at Icicle Brewing Company is that employees can participate in a training program to become a Cicerone. This is a certified beer server program which allows employees to obtain a nationally recognized certification in beer serving which they can take with them wherever they go.
 
DeMoss is excited to finally be able to operate his business again with fewer restrictions, but is still worried about supply chain issues in the future. He acknowledged that he is not a public health expert, but expressed desire to have his things in the state open up more if it was able to be done in a safe manner.
 
“I think at this time just being allowed to be open. Just allowing us to exercise our craft and operate our businesses. Just giving us a chance there. I think that’s all any of us want,” said DeMoss.
 

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