Some businesses flourishing during COVID-19

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 12:13 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2020 at 11:30 AM EDT
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SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Vermont businesses have had to change their model to fit new health guidelines and address lower numbers of customers, but there are a few who are seeing their busiest year to date.

Mandy Hotchkiss and her friend Phoebe Bright co-own the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero. When the pandemic hit, they immediately decided to change their floor layout and conduct all business through delivery and takeout until they were allowed to seat people outside.

This led to the idea to create a brand new site that’s entirely outside and COVID-safe at the Keeler Bay Campground & Marina.

“With the COVID-19 we really had to change our course,” Hotchkiss said. “This year, with the pandemic and how well we did with takeout, delivery and then the tent service -- as soon as the day that they put the sign up saying ‘looking for a food truck,’ I called them up and I said, ‘Do you still want us?’ and they said, “of course!‘”

While cars can pull in and order at the Blue Paddle’s stand, boats can dock at the marina and order from their vessel, or walk up to the new deck patio and be served the full menu. They say the expansion has been very profitable for both businesses.

“It’s working out wonderfully,” said Michele Gammal, co-owner of the Keeler Bay Campground & Marina. “It’s a really nice partnership. I think we all work very well together. We’re actually even expanding the marina this coming weekend.”

"So, from the first night that we opened up, we've had a full deck," Hotchkiss said.

Beyond Keeler Bay, other local boat launches say that business has been catching up to their “normal” numbers and visitors. The Apple Island Marina in South Hero says that business started slow this year with the Canadian border being shut down, but now they’re seeing a lot more Vermonters coming for a “staycation.”

“It’s not going to be exactly what it was last year,” said Apple Island’s Brian Dye, “but as long as we get close to what we were, we’ll definitely be happy about that. And it’s just, we just have to get used to what we’re dealing with right now.”

The Blue Paddle plans to continue expanding, building a third location between Keeler Bay Marina and their original restaurant.

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