New and old SWFL businesses continue making moves to stay open

While businesses across Southwest Florida are working to bring customers back in, a few stores are opening for the first time. We spoke to the owners of businesses in the region who continue to hope for the best during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some businesses have been in the area a while and are trying to branch out during tough times. Other businesses are experiencing hardships for the first time.

A New Start Wellness Center in Cape Coral almost immediately experienced rough beginnings when it opened at the start of the year. Owner Frank Taylor says the coronavirus pandemic made opening a new business more than difficult.

“I began my business in January,” said Taylor, who is also the center’s executive director. “Coronavirus wasn’t even talked about until the end of January.”

By March, Taylor had no choice but to shut down.

“I closed March 13, and I started getting business going again last week,” Taylor said.

He says opening back up is one thing, while convincing customers to come back for physical and aesthetic therapy is another.

“I open my doors, and everybody’s like, ‘Wait a minute. You want to stick needles in me?’” Taylor explained. “’Do you want me to come and get therapy from you?’ And they’re talking about coronavirus?”

Down the street, Two Meatballs in the Kitchen is going ahead with plans to open its second location in Lee County, thankful it’s not the first.

“We are an established brand in Fort Myers, so we’re not starting a brand-new business from scratch,” owner Franco Russo said. “It’s not brand-new food.”

The same is true for Blaze Pizza. People know the food. The goal now is to make them feel safe.

Typically, we’re 80-85% dine-in business,” said Dennis Sherer, an operating partner for Blaze Pizza. “Now, we have 50% capacity, and we are focused more on delivery service on the digital side of our business.”

At New Start Wellness, Taylor had to make a tough choice in hopes his business would survive. For the first time, he says he started financing his services, aiming to making it more affordable for all socioeconomic classes. He’s hoping the pandemic passes, and he’s still around when it’s over.

“I’ve had to reduce some of my costs of service so that I can attract people to come back in,” Taylor said.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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