COVID Changed Our Small Business Forever
By: Waylon Fisher | Originally Posted: 11/20/20 | Last Updated: 11/20/20
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Let me first off start by saying that this whole pandemic has been tough for a lot of us. I hate COVID and if you lost a loved one during the pandemic my heart goes out to you. The entire pandemic has really been a roller coaster of emotions. I remember first hearing about COVID and I wasn't too worried at all. I added COVID to the list of illnesses I heard on the news but never dealt with first hand. A little after that a player in the NBA tested positive after joking about the illness in a press conference after their game. After that is when we really started seeing changes in our area. My arcade is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana and right about this same period was when our city started a lockdown. Since lockdown we have gone through all the stages of reopening just to go back to a previous stage and unsure of what is to happen next. At this point COVID rates are higher in my area than ever before and don't seem to be slowing down. The toll this has on our small business has been tough. My goal with this post is to explain what has been going through our heads during the pandemic as a business, how my business responded to increasing concerns, and our next plans.
As a VR arcade, we have always taken cleanliness seriously. One fact a lot of people don't know about me is I am a slight germaphobe and you will rarely catch me ever sharing a drink with somebody, unless I am seriously that thirsty. Usually when someone asks for a drink of my drink they end up with the rest of the drink because I don't want my drink back afterward. Our process for cleaning at Spectrum before COVID every started consisted wiping the headset and controllers down with instant sanitizing wipes thoroughly, often using 3-4 wipes, and then wiping the couch in the room, spraying a little air freshener, and letting everything sit for a minimum of 2 minutes. This is a process I have always trusted personally. I have spent many nights with friends at Spectrum playing VR. We have been open about 3 years now. I think I have been sick a total of 3 times in that period of time and I would guess most those times were allergy related.
Once all the toilet paper and hand sanitizers starting disappearing at the stores nearby, I knew we had to prepare for the worst. I spent a period of about 3 days driving to every store in our city and nearby cities to try to get cleaning supplies. I ended up with about 3 gallons of disinfecting bleach, 20 packs of 15 piece Clorox wipes, and 4 cans of disinfectant spray. Now we still hand our instant sanitizing wipes and some other cleaning materials, but we knew we would end up increasing our cleaning procedures. None of these efforts ended up mattering as we decided to close the store the next few days after. We were not required to initially shut down, but it felt like the right thing to do since restaurants were required to close. I felt like we should get a better idea of what is going on and then focus on reopening. So we closed, then the next week the lockdown in our area was announced.
This period was personally very hard for me and my hair. I spent the last two plus years spending almost everyday at Spectrum and not cutting my own hair. Now I had to stay at home and cut my own hair, good thing I could bring a VR headset with me to pass some time and help me forget what my head looked like. To be honest it wasn't until I had a reopen plan set before I ever used the headset I brought with me.
One of my biggest struggles at this point was this was the summer we were rolling out our brand new VR Summer Camps. I was so excited but we decided to cancel every session except one. I spent the six months prior getting ready for the camps so it really was unfortunate we had to make the tough decision to cancel. Basically during this period we watched news as closely as possible, researched ideas for cleaning, and planed what our next moves were. Did you know that you can buy super unsafe UV cleaners off amazon? I now did. A UV wand that you are not supposed to look at or expose to your skin. I don't recommend the wands, but I was willing to do what I had to for my customers!
After a while the reopen plan was released by the governor. I don't remember detail for detail but basically halfway through July we could open up with a ton of restrictions. We were able to take small group bookings, have everyone wear a mask, and socially distance. During this same period we were able to run our one week of summer camp. It was also during this period I started to figure out exactly how safe I felt at Spectrum. All of our rooms are separated by walls, so you are never in direct exposure to another group outside of the lobby where social distancing is possible. As long as we routinely cleaned everything in addition to our normal cleaning procedures we felt really safe. We called into the State Department of Health and they felt the same and let us open the same time as retail spaces instead of entertainment. So we were back in business!
Our commitment to safety has not changed since our reopening. We routinely clean everything, we keep our masks on, and the headsets we have taken extra precautions in cleaning. Every time I clean the equipment I start with a quick, thorough wipe with the instant sanitizing wipe, I switch to a diluted bleach water mixture to clean the headset, and then I am back to a instant sanitizing wipe for a final wipe down. This process has not changed and again I trust the process, I use the headsets myself. We will continue these extra safety practices until better ones come along.
We faced a ton of financial struggles during lockdown and the process of reopening. We had no money coming in but had all our monthly bills still. We have still yet to go back to normal and even right now, sales seem to be slowing down as COVID rates rise. We will beat this pandemic and be stronger because of it. The next few months may be rocky but we plan on getting back to where we were. After COVID passes, we will get back to doing what we do best: hosting tournaments, being a great birthday party venue, and rolling out summer camps the way they were meant to be rolled out!
Side Note: I do not have to cut my own hair anymore! If you are interested in reading my previous blog post you can do so here.