Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he’s feeling a bit like an orchestra conductor as he works with various sectors of the business community as they reopen.
“Each group is working hard together and working collaboratively to support each other. There are leaders stepping up in each sector. I’ve been meeting weekly with the various groups and they are all working hard on developing best practices, sharing vendors and information and working together to lobby the state,” Friedman said.
He said he and the chamber board were seeing individual business leaders stepping up and becoming experts in specific areas and then sharing that information that is relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like a lot of what I’m doing is being a conductor, making sure information is being disseminated, but also being a cheerleader, making sure people know that we can do this,” he pointed out.
Additionally, Friedman is working hard to be a source for information as The Valley and the state reopen after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TAKING CARE OF EACH OTHER
Friedman said that despite the restrictions on how businesses reopen and the lack of certainty about when out-of-state visitors will be allowed to visit Vermont without a 14-day quarantine, he was impressed by how community members are taking care of each other.
“What’s remarkable is that the business community, with all the things business owners have to worry about, they’re still concerned about others and those who are less fortunate and their employees,” he said.
"The second thing I’m seeing is how innovative the business community is being. Ana Dan setting up a Sperry tent in her backyard at the Hyde Away to create more outdoor dining space and also protect people from the elements is a perfect example,” Friedman said.
“The Mad Taco has hooked up with cubbies for takeout food. Charlie Menard at Canteen Creemee is doing takeout Fridays which allows him to manage without any employees. At The Swanson Inn, Rick and Tim pivoted from Sunday afternoon pie to takeout soup and savory pies. The way these businesses have pivoted and altered their business is really on brand with our community generally,” he added.
The Valley has always been a little quirky and funky and these changes necessitated by COVID-19 are to be expected from a place like the Mad River Valley, he said.
Local attitudes about fully opening up the state are varied, reflecting a spectrum of opinions on how soon and when the state should allow tourism and second-home owner visits without self-quarantine.
“It’s a really touchy subject. I think the vast majority of businesspeople here understand the importance of the second-home owner community to us and the fact that we’re going to need to co-exist and make sure that when we get through to the other end our second-home owners feel how much we value them,” Friedman said.
“This is the hardest thing about walking that fine line between public safety and your business. There’s a diverse spectrum of beliefs throughout the community and even in our own households too. I find myself vacillating from day to day too,” Friedman added.