“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Thanks for asking. Health permitting, my family and I are going to be fine over the next two months. And that’s good enough for now. How about you?”
That’s a sum of the conversations I have been having with staff, neighbors and customers during the COVID-19 crisis. We want to know that everyone around us will be OK. And while we’re unsure what the future holds, for the moment Northern Michigan is making do.
At Cherry Republic, our goal is to make it safely to Memorial Weekend and then, God willing, celebrate like crazy. And that celebration will take the form of graciously and joyously greeting and serving our customers. Nothing will mean more to me than seeing the happiness on our customers’ faces that weekend as you enjoy the festive gifts in our stores and Cherry Public House. And then that following Tuesday, my staff and I will continue our ongoing plans for making our summer season one of the best yet as Michigan gets back to work.
But along the way, there are some things we need to overcome. My last two weeks have been focused on Cherry Republic’s staff and making sure that they will be fine through this. We wrote 171 paychecks two weeks ago, and every one of the people behind those checks has a family and quality of life that we need to protect. It seems every other employer I know is doing the same. We’ve needed to shore up our finances and borrow, borrow, borrow during this standstill. With limited economic activity, it’s like everybody has to put interest and profit on hold to ensure dollars, products and services flow throughout the Northern Michigan economy.
And finally, we need to overcome all of our temporary store closings. Our mail order and internet will become our lifeblood for the time being, and finding customers via catalogs, emails, Facebook and our website are critical. Luckily, in times of crisis, sending gifts is really important, and we can fill that nitch so well by sending Northern Michigan’s ruby red morsels of joy to friends and family all over the world.
I realize as I write this that none of our employees, neighbors, or family members are suffering from the virus. My heart goes out to all those who are fighting the virus or who have family fighting the virus. And I thank all those people who are on the front lines of this battle. Cherry Republic is fortunate to have our health and lives and optimism intact. When the coronavirus does hit us, more than anything, I hope that we can keep our positive attitude and optimism. For 31 years, it’s been Cherry Republic’s greatest asset.
Cherry Republic will overcome this virus and all its ancillary challenges. Leelanau County will overcome. Northern Michigan will overcome. America will overcome. And you and I and all of us will be okay.
Photo Credit: Colebrook Sutherland