MEDINA, Ohio — All over Northeast Ohio, small business owners are scrambling to change the way they operate during the coronavirus crisis.
That includes Patti Boyert, a fourth-generation greenhouse grower and vegetable farmer and her husband, Mike, a third-generation farmer. The couple owns Boyert's Greenhouse and Farm in Montville Township, which has been around for 35 years. They sell about 5,000 different species of flowers, plants, shrubs and trees.
"If you take any farmer today and somebody throws a challenge out to them, they usually can figure out pretty quick what they've got to do to get the job done," Mike said.
However, the challenge created by COVID-19 is something the experienced farmers didn't see coming, and now they are dealing with a dramatic loss to their business just ahead of their busiest time of year. The Boyert family estimates sales could be down $50,000 to $60,000 over the past two weeks.
"We're losing about half of our sales everyday that we should normally be getting right now," Mike said.
Most of their 40 employees are still able to get hours, but some of them have been temporarily laid off.
As a safety measure, the shop and greenhouses are temporarily closed to the public. The business is using curbside pickup and doing deliveries. Customers are encouraged to visit the company's Facebook and Instagram pages and pre-order their flowers, herbs, vegetables and other items by calling 330-725-3509.
"They pull to the front door and call us in the office. We go out. Collect the money. Boom, we're done," Mike said.
The family considers their business essential since it sells vegetable plants along with seeds and fertilizer for gardening. The shop also sells some meat products.
However, the owners also recognized the importance of shutting down on-site shopping in order to comply with social distancing guidelines that have been stressed repeatedly by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
"We want to keep everybody safe. We want to keep people coming in. That's why we're doing curbside," Patti said. "We want them (customers) safe. We want our employees safe. We want them to go home and not take anything with them."
"Our employees are family," Mike added while holding back tears. "Family is a very important part of our lives. We have six kids."
The hardest part for the farmers is not knowing when business will return to normal. Many crops were planted last fall to be ready for their busiest time of year, which generally starts around Easter and lasts six weeks. A high percentage of the greenhouse's estimated $1.2 million in plant sales occurs during that time period.
"Do we hold plants a little bit? Are we even going to have a season? Are we the only ones that are going to enjoy these plants this year? The uncertainty of it all is just very trying," Patti said.
In the meantime, the family continues to grow and looks at their beautiful flowers as symbols for brighter days ahead.
"We have optimism. I'm glad there's people out there with optimism," Mike said. "We'll take every day one day at a time and we'll just keep going."