Some local businesses devastated by crisis but not all

Posted 4/1/20

by Len Lear Jonathan Williams of Chestnut Hill Cleaning Co. While many area businesses have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, there are exceptions. Here is a sampling of Chestnut Hill …

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Some local businesses devastated by crisis but not all


by Len Lear

Jonathan Williams of Chestnut Hill Cleaning Co.

While many area businesses have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, there are exceptions. Here is a sampling of Chestnut Hill businesses we contacted last week to see how they were coping:

•Rikki Renz owner of AR Workshop Chestnut Hill, a Do-It-Yourself business at 8607 Germantown Ave. (

“We have closed our building to physical workshops. We had been creating DIY Home Kits to keep some income coming in, but that stopped as of yesterday. The concept is that people will pick their project online, pay for it online and are able to pick up their item between specified times. Similar to take-out places, the customer would call us when they are outside, and we put the project in the trunk of their car; no contact ever made. I am also willing to deliver these projects to people's homes and leave them on their doorstep.

“I have been incessantly reviewing every bit of information and data about small business help, but NOTHING is helping a small business that only has one year of business under their belt! I have enough debt and do not want to accumulate more by applying for loans.

“We have had people cancel registrations for workshops they signed up and paid for in advance. Those folks are willing to reschedule when things go back to normal, but I have had some requests for refunds, which is against our policy, and I frankly cannot afford to give them. My staff is all part-time, and I cannot afford to pay them unless and until we have workshops again or I am allowed to do DIY home kits. I just don't want my first year of business to be my last, and I am very concerned about what another week will do, much less months.”

•Bethany DiLello, Graphic & Web Design, 8327 Germantown Ave. (

“I'm a freelance graphic designer. All of my work is done digitally, and most of my communication with my clients is done by email. I have always had the flexibility to work from anywhere that has internet. In that way, my business has not been affected at all by the pandemic. However, some of my work includes creating flyers and invitations for corporate events, many of which have been cancelled due to the virus. Unfortunately, that means lost business for me.

“On the other hand, I have had one or two clients request COVID-19-specific graphics that they will use to make announcements to their employees or members, so it's likely that it will all even out for me in the end. I think things will go back to some kind of normal in the not-too-distant future, but I don't think it will ever be completely the same as it was before.”

•Jonathan Williams, owner, Chestnut Hill Cleaning Co. (

“This pandemic is affecting everyone I know, and it is certainly taking a toll on small businesses. However, I believe that my current situation is somewhat unique. By that I mean that while I have experienced an immediate work stoppage with my long-term contracts, I have seen an increase in new customers requesting a one-time cleaning. This makes sense because the employees at my established contracts are not physically onsite, so there is a need for ongoing cleaning, and there are others trying to keep this invisible enemy at bay. I wish I knew how long this crisis would last … I’m not alone, and hopefully we’ll all get through it.”

•Barry Blum Antiques, 45 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. (

“The year started off strong, and the spring is one of our better periods, but the only business since the government shutdown has been through my websites. There are many antique shows in the spring, and we supply some dealers with inventory. The Philadelphia Antique Show at the Navy Yard, one of the oldest and best in the country that attracts many out-of-town people, was also canceled. That show always produced a run-off in my store.

“The auctions, a source for inventory for me, are shut down. People are also apprehensive for you to visit their homes. We own the building we are in and have seen slow-downs before in the over 45 years we've been here. Fortunately, like a fine wine, my inventory gets better with age, and I am hopeful we will all be back to a normal routine a month from now ... I am also a volunteer fireman, and we take all precautions, but when we pull out of the station to answer a call, I can assure you we or any other fireman are not six feet apart.”

•Alva Robinson, licensed social worker, The Woodward Community Centre, 8419 Germantown Ave. (

“Since the pandemic, I have had to close down my practice and am now in the process of moving to offer telehealth or virtual sessions to the children and families I serve in my practice. I believe that it is important, especially for children and teens, to keep a routine, and that means for me to offer them a safe space where they can express anxieties, worries, concerns and fears. I am also offering telehealth session to parents to help them have conversations with their child or teens during this pandemic as well as to support them as they try to manage and cope with their own feelings. I do have hope and faith that things will get back to near-normal soon.”

Len Lear can be reached at


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