Recovery Stories Vary For Businesses Hit Hard During Pandemic

During the past two years of the pandemic, NBC Connecticut has checked in with hundreds of businesses across our state to see how they’re coping with one of the most challenging economic situations ever.

NBC Connecticut Investigates revisited three of them for a follow-up.

One business told us it has been treading water, another said it has gone almost back to normal, and a third told us it has been thriving.

Bill’s Limousine owner Sal Calafiore said the main chunk of his business has been tough to revive, even with the omicron surge winding down in the northeast.

“Airport runs and meetings to New York City, Boston — we need that back,” Calafiore said.

Virtual meetings have remained in fashion for now, and that has hurt Calafiore.

According to Calafiore, 90% of his business involved corporate clients going to the airport to fly to meetings. More recently, it has comprised about 20% of what he bills.

The only saving grace for Calafiore has been a large increase in winery and wedding bookings — some even taking place on weekdays — though the omicron variant has dampened even that demand a bit.

Hair salon owner Chris Goslin has a different story in the Noank section of Groton.

“I want to say that probably 95% of our clientele is back”, Goslin said.

NBC Connecticut Investigates first met her when she was closed for more than two months, struggling to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in 2020.

“No, just I’m really appreciative to you. You know, if it really weren’t for you doing the initial story. I honestly don’t know. If I would have found somebody to put my PPP loan through,” Goslin said.

Goslin says the federal government forgave both of the PPP loans she ended up receiving.

Then there’s the story of Alex Foulkes, co-owner of the Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook.

Foulkes recounted some bleak times for his business.

“At the worst of it during the pandemic, and, you know, early 2020, I mean, we were down to probably doing 30% of our normal sales.”

Foulkes had just begun a locally owned delivery business called Shoreline Menus when the pandemic struck.

“It started to pick up slowly from there. And the business has shifted, we do a much higher percentage of online ordering than we ever did,” Foulkes said.

In his delivery business model, the restaurants all own a piece of it and they pool delivery drivers. It has now spread to the Capital Region with Greater Hartford Menus, and in New Haven with a delivery business called Nosh Haven.

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