Mount Pocono Businesses Finding Their Way Through
MOUNT POCONO - Reflecting on nearly two-months in a mandatory lock-down which shuttered her downtown offices, Mount Pocono State Farm Agent Beth Moloughney says, “I have come to realize that life should be lived everyday, and we should always be ready for an emergency.”
That mix of outlook has fared Moloughney and her insurance agency well through these difficult days. Her entire staff has been teleworking since the shutdown. While Moloughney has been making plans for the installation of plexiglass shields, obtaining supplies of face masks, cleaners, and hand sanitizer for when staff and customers can return, she and her employees have also made time to contact agency customers, often only to check up on them and make sure they were okay.
Having also prepared for an emergency, the owners of the Casino Theatre & Village Malt Shoppe, are similarly readying for a changed way of business on the other side of this public health crisis. Karen and Don Struckle, the second-generation proprietors of Mount Pocono’s downtown mainstay, have had their premises thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, installed plexiglass dividers and sanitizer stations, and stocked up on gloves and wipes.
They expect that, when they are permitted to reopen, there may be some restrictions on capacity and spacing out of patrons to comply with social distancing. They are making plans so that they will be prepared for that. They are also working on new ideas to use what they have, such as making their theaters available for private parties, screening personal videos, photographs, and music special and appropriate to the party-goers.
The Casino’s manager has reached out to staff to get an idea of who is available and willing to return. They plan to reopen their ice cream business for take out sales as soon as the weather breaks (when we interviewed them, in the second week of May, it had just snowed and there was a 20 degree freeze warning for the evening). The miniature golf course will be ready to go as soon as the state gives the go-ahead.
Looking to the future, their industry will see some changes in the near-term, some of which may or may not take hold and become permanent. It’s entirely possible that the “summer” blockbusters could be rolled out in the early fall, creating an unusual spike in theater sales during a normally slow period. That would be welcome as the Casino looks to lose out on its two biggest months - July and August. They have decided to forego their customary September closing, with plans to try to recapture some of those lost sales.
The industry is trying to help the theaters by offering deep discounts for screening previously-released titles. This would permit local movie cinemas to offer something like an all- Star Wars or Hunger Games weekend series, a proposition not cost-effective under typical film rental terms.
For other businesses, adapting means shifting focus. Pocono Rocks, out of the bounce house, rock wall, and birthday-party business for the time being, is placing the focus on their food menu. Their “Little Rock Café” serves up fresh ingredients, a made-from-scratch menu, and off the menu features based on what Jodi Safianow-Bohdal, who owns the main street attraction with her husband Darien, decides she wants to cook that day. Offering everything from breakfast, to lunch, to hand made pizza, and, of course, Jodi’s famous baked goods, she and her side kick, manager Colleen McGuire, also offer delivery to help their hungry fans get their ‘Little Rock Fixes’.
Cresco’s Kasa Pizza also turned to delivery. Although they have always done a healthy take-out business, and continue to partner with Grubhub, they have lost their dine-in business and, of course, their inside children’s play area is shut down. Owner Dave Butcher says he was “desperate to find a way to continue”, and decided to offer his own delivery service for a $5 fee, to expand his customer’s options. Take-out customers are greeting by masked employees behind plexiglass dividers, who seem always to be either handing over food or cleaning often-touched surfaces.
Adapting, leveraging the assets available to them, often in new and inventive ways, and thoughtful planning for the future – that’s what Mount Pocono’s entrepreneurs are doing to try to weather this crisis and position themselves best to come out on the other side as healthy and ready to go as possible.
How can the community help insure these businesses, on which we all rely on for entertainment, supplies, good food and company, and which we miss as much as they miss us?
Some thoughts – buy gift certificates to use later when they reopen. If they aren’t available on line, give your favorite local business a call and buy it the old fashion way – over the phone and through the mail. For our great local restaurants, “eat out at home” at least once a week to help them and their employees out. Share their social media posts, too; give them a review of Facebook or Google, encourage your friends to give them a try.
And when the doors re-open, shop local!