Downtown Morgan Hill shops and restaurants manage to stay open despite pandemic challenges

By Rosy Bergin and Cherisse White

Undoubtedly, these are extraordinary times! For this column, the Morgan Hill Downtown Association would like to feature the stories of two members, local small businesses, in their own words. Their differing experiences during this pandemic, despite proactively taking steps to adapt, highlight how we are impacted by this terrible tempest uniquely, due to issues beyond our control. We recognize that this extends to all of us, and each person’s ordeal is vastly different from the next. If you are among the lucky ones who are financially able, please support them and as many local businesses as you can.

Rosy Bergin of Rosy’s at the Beach Restaurant:

Rosy Bergin

Driving through Downtown Morgan Hill these days, it is hard to sense that there is a pandemic problem.

When outdoor dining reopened June 5, the floodgates opened with eager diners hungry and thirsty for social interaction with their local restaurants.

Just three months earlier in mid-March, all this had come to a screeching halt when we met our newest challenge in COVID 19. For our restaurant, it meant an immediate halt to 75 percent of all business. To keep the ship afloat, we remained open to offer curbside order pick-ups, and reduced staff and menu offerings to break even. However, faced with the reality of shelter-in-place orders, few diners were venturing out. So, we focused on how to bring our strengths out to a public that was staying home and made

“Taco Tuesday” an everyday affair. Orders increased to include local businesses and hospitals ordering for their staff. Soon, regular customers were able to order “Rosarita Margaritas” in to-go cups, thanks to a friendly lift of a Department of Alcohol Control ordinance.

However, our biggest boost came from our many local and loyal customers with their encouraging words and patronage.

Our monthly wine dinners went virtual with customers picking up the prepared meal and wine. Wineries joined in via Zoom or YouTube. Other themed dinners followed. With this momentum, we made it through April and May.

Many customers discovered the comforts of our new Lanai Patio while waiting for their to-go-orders. Now that the county is permitting restaurants to serve diners outside, the downtown is regaining its active vibe. Sidewalks are filled with cheerful stroller-pushing diners walking and stopping for a bite once again.

We have learned to be flexible, inventive, and patient during the last few months. These are traits of the small business owner, and what I love about being one.

Cherisse White of Cherisse’s Hair Salon:

Cherisse White

My business, Cherisse’s Hair Salon, was deemed non-essential and has been mandatorily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March. Originally, we believed that we would only be shut a few weeks. However, as the order extended to many weeks and now months, the reopening date kept changing.

My entire staff went on unemployment and the business applied for federal aid. We did receive the Payroll Protection Plan loan which helped to supplement some costs, but it is nothing like having the staff and clients in the salon with me. I started promoting and selling retail on social media, with the products available to be picked up curbside. However, we will not be able to make up the lost income, especially since we do not have an opening date yet. After rescheduling our clients four times already, we now have a master list to call, email, or text to get them in as soon as we get the final green signal.

We have a new app called Paired, downloadable through a smartphone’s App Store, through which clients can log in and sync up their data with ours. They can see their past appointment history, retail purchases, and direct message us here at the salon, among other cool features. Eventually, clients will be able to schedule future appointments through the app.

For now, it is a wonderful way to stay connected with our staff through the messaging feature. We miss our clients!

Meanwhile, we have made all the necessary changes for safety and protection in the salon. We have reviewed and revised previous policies, and clients will be updated on what their experience will be like upon confirming their appointment. This means masks, limited contact, one guest at a time, and various shields in place.

Our team (Cherisse, Jo, Tanya, Rosie, and Dakota) meets weekly on Zoom and continues to support each other. We have taken this time to work on our advanced training on Hand-Tied Hair Extensions and we are excited to show our new line of Paul Mitchell Color called Chroma XG.

We are ready to help our guests with their hair care needs as soon as we can open again. We miss our guests and we miss doing hair.

Hope to see you soon.

Rosy Bergin is the owner of Rosy’s at the Beach and Cherisse White is the owner of Cherisse’s Hair Salon, both in downtown Morgan Hill. They wrote their experiences for Morgan Hill Life.

Guest Column