CAPE CORAL, Fla — It's always been a great way to beat the heat. And during a pandemic, a backyard pool has to be one of the best ways to beat boredom.
"People are trapped at home and they're going to be using their swimming pools. And if you don't sanitize a swimming pool, you're going to have problems," Chris Chapman says.
Chapman owns the Pinch A Penny at Chiquita Blvd. and Cape Coral Parkway. The state considers his and all pool stores to be essential businesses right now. We're telling Chapman's story, as part of our "We're Open Southwest Florida" series. These are stories about locally owned businesses that have had to change what they do to stay open during the Coronavirus crisis.
But just because his store is open, doesn't mean things are normal.
“We had to completely change our business model, from being a very easy to shop environment where you could walk in, just like any retail store and pick something off the shelf and go to the register and purchase it, to a point where we’re just doing curbside service,” Chapman says.
That means you have to go to a curbside counter to buy parts or pool toys or to get your water tested. Workers in masks and gloves will greet you there, then go inside and pick out what you need.
“For us to be able to really shop for them is difficult. You don’t really know what somebody is looking for," Chapman says.
The toughest challenges, though, come from this business being so personal. Chapman has several workers who do home visits every day.
“We have even done some home deliveries for people who are trapped at home," he says. "We’ve had customers who are self-isolating, and we’ve had a few customers that either has a family member that’s been infected, or they believe they may be infected. And they’ve asked if we could deliver the products they need to their home, and we’ve done that.”
"I’ve talked to each of my employees individually and given them an out so to speak, it’s not required for them if they don’t feel comfortable, but we are giving them as much PPE as we can.”
And that's another challenge. He has to get his hands on as many masks and gloves as possible.
"The service technicians are in people’s backyards every day grabbing a screen door handle someone may have touched five minutes before. Again, they’re using gloves and hand sanitizer to wipe everything down,” Chapman says.
Pinch A Penny corporate says all their Southwest Florida stores are taking the same precautions right now. Chapman is also closing his store a little early to clean and restock. And to give his employees a break.
“Everybody is being affected by this, I’m not being singled out. It’s not my business being singled out. I think about how fortunate we are to be able to function at some capacity, whereas, we know a lot of restaurants and other businesses have had to completely shut down."