Like you, we’re eager to get back to our pre-pandemic way of life and routines. I have photographs to prove that I looked pretty stupid with long hair when I was 14. Nearly 45 years later, it’s still not a good look on me. A haircut would be very welcome!
As Governor Northam has begun moving the Commonwealth towards more relaxed personal and business restrictions, we’ve been getting lots of questions about when we’ll return to more normal operations and allow customers to enter the store. While the calculus is complex, our current answer is simple: Chain Bridge Cellars will remain closed to in-store shopping for at least another 30 days and, quite likely, longer.
The Risk-Reward Tradeoff
Every family and business owner has to make their own decisions about direct customer contact while the novel coronavirus remains active. We sympathize with our neighbors in Northern Virginia and the wine industry who’ve been unable to earn the money they need to provide for families and staff during the crisis. We support those who feel the need to trade off increased risk of infection against the threat of financial ruin.
Our situation is different: We sell a product that people can buy without trying on for fit or receiving any personal contact from a service provider. Our product is one that people continue to want to have during the crisis, and one we’re able to sell effectively online, via email and over the phone and get to you through curbside pick-up and local delivery. And it’s one that people can no longer purchase and enjoy in the comfort of a sit-down restaurant.
Most of all, we have been incredibly fortunate in the amazing support we’ve received from you, our customers. In the early days of the crisis, more than a few of you essentially manufactured reasons to buy wine from us to help us out. But since then, you’ve continued to support us by putting up with the awkwardness of online/phone shopping, contactless pick-ups, and local delivery.
And, even more importantly, you’ve been sending us your friends and neighbors by the boatload. We are humbled – and sometimes staggered – by the number of new customers we’ve met over the past weeks who have told us, “My neighbor/friend/cousin/work colleague told me Chain Bridge Cellars would help me find wines I’d like and make it easy to get them.” We are now serving around ten times the number of new customers each week we’d see during normal times, and you are the reason why.
Continuing to Thrive
As a result, while so many good businesses and great people are struggling during the crisis, we are thriving. But we’re only able to continue to thrive if our staff stay well. We are five people who work in close contact with each other all day long and then head our separate ways to families who are doing their best to stay safe and well, too. If any of our team contracts the coronavirus, it seems a dead lock certainty that it will spread across the staff and to our families in very short order.
And, if that happens, the best case we can hope for is that we’ll have to shut down – and earn no revenue at all – for two to three weeks. The worst case doesn’t bear discussion.
So, as long as we’re able to continue earning enough to pay the staff and our bills, we’re going to take the maximum steps we can to prevent infection of our staff through customer contact. The shop is too small to maintain six feet of separation between customers and staff at all times, and it would be all but impossible for us to disinfect every surface you touch that we might, or every surface we’ve touched that you might.
We know this is frustrating to many customers and would-be customers. Every day, we watch people approach our door, read the signs, and then walk-away. And this frustration can be extreme: We read with horror the stories last week of shootings in fast food restaurants and dollar stores by customers angered at being asked to honor safety requirements.
The Best Balance
But, despite all that, we feel the best balance for us, our staff, and our business is to continue to keep the sales floor closed to customer traffic for the immediate future. We’ll keep re-evaluating this position based on the status of the virus in our community and how our business is doing. Hopefully, we’ll see positive changes in transmission rates and/or improved treatments soon and will be able to move back to “normal” more quickly than we currently expect.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support and understanding. If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, whatever, please let us know. You can email me directly or call us at 703.356.6500. We welcome hearing from you.