Skips Florist has been operating in Toms River for more than half a century.
Owner Sandy Skolnik says after Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all businesses to shut down on March 13, he told his staff he could no longer keep them employed. He bid them goodbye, locked up his shop and went home.
But the next day he realized the Executive Order signed by the governor allowed him to stay open because he sold fruit and gourmet food baskets and his business was classified as an agriculture business. So he began spreading the word his store was open for business and calls started coming in from customers.
He said over the next two months, business started heating up “and it’s been exploding ever since."
"We have just been going non-stop," he said. "It’s amazing. My biggest problem is getting enough product, and when can I get it.”
Suddenly, without warning, the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, causing the most severe economic shock since the Great Depression more than 90 years ago. Over the past 12 months, thousands of New Jersey stores and companies have gone out of businesses and more than 2 million Garden State residents have filed for unemployment.
But during that same period there have also been dramatic and unexpected success stories.
Skolnik says he believes his business has been successful because “people couldn’t travel, they couldn’t visit, they couldn’t go anywhere, but they wanted to do something and we were the alternative.”
Dave Taylor of Taylor Made Cabinets in Manahawkin was also nervous about what would happen to his business when the lockdown began.
He had told his staff they should be prepared to be laid off but instead of business dropping off, it started picking up.
“We worked five, six days a week straight through. Never blinked, never had time to breath. It was non-stop insanity and it’s been that way since," he said.
In fact, Taylor says he’s been forced to hire more people because his regular staff cannot keep up with all of the orders that have come in, large and small.
“If it’s a small job, I’m telling you come back in August ... that’s how busy it is,” he said.
He says demand for his business has skyrocketed because “the wife is at home, she’s looking at the vanity and she hates it, and her husband is sitting there looking at it and he says, you know what ... let’s get rid of it, let’s change it.”
He adds bathroom remodeling “has exploded along with kitchen remodeling, it’s wild.”
Kyle Staffa of Staffa Stone in Bayville was concerned about losing his business when the pandemic started. That concern didn’t last long.
He says by mid April of last year town officials had asked him to get someone to direct cars into his parking area because there was so much traffic that Route 9 was getting jammed up.
“We had that much of an influx of homeowners and people coming in to remodel their yard and do all of those little projects that they’d been meaning to do," he said.
Staffa says even now, one year later, “business is still flourishing" with contractors booked six months to a year.
He estimates his business has grown 100% since the pandemic first began.
A YEAR OF COVID: A SPECIAL SERIES
New Jersey 101.5 this week looks at the how COVID-19 has impacted the way New Jerseyans work, from the challenges to the success stories, and what the future could look like. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Eric Scott will host a live Town Hall with special business and medical guests taking your calls. Listen on our app or at our Facebook page.
Melissa McLean, the owner of Morning Joy Counseling in Turnersville, said when the pandemic began, she knew she would have to transform the way her mental health counseling business would operate, otherwise it would not survive.
Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, McLean was able to get electronic video equipment that allowed her staff of therapists to conduct telehealth sessions with clients.
She says her business has grown significantly over the past year, no doubt because “there’s a lot of people that need help, even more so than we’ve seen before because of domino effect that’s been caused by the pandemic.”
She said she’s grateful to be able to offer help to those in need.
MONDAY: COVID-19 has changed the way we work — but how permanently?
TUESDAY: These were the in-demand industries that survived the pandemic
WEDNESDAY: 4 small businesses in NJ that survived and prospered in the pandemic
THURSDAY: How small businesses took chances to navigate the pandemic storm
FRIDAY: We're already in the year 2025: Post-pandemic future for NJ businesses
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com