Local businesses are searching for answers during supply chain shortages.
| 2:00 p.m. February 15, 2022
Consumers in the East County area see the empty shelves and substituted items whenever they go shopping.
Local businesses have to live with it.
Several business owners talked about how they are sent different directions when they encounter today's world of supply chain shortages.
Fantasy Flowers owner Michelle Bridges said she is struggling because of a lack of refrigerated trucks she could rent to store her flowers. Bridges would rent a truck for storage so her flowers could be kept at a low temperature to pause their growth before sale.
“We're just praying for cool weather,” she said.
Bridges realized the fate of her business was up to her. She purchased a shipping container from AERO Diversified Sales in Bradenton. Her husband David, a carpenter, added two-by-fours with insulation. Michelle added an air conditioner with a CoolBot device, bringing the temperature inside the container to thirty-eight degrees. The container sits behind her business.
The result was a new fridge that she says is better than before — quieter, more energy-efficient, and free of the smell of petrol and diesel that had caused complaints in the past from people in the vicinity.
She said obtaining flowers can be difficult with supply shortages and florists need to be open-minded about new ways of doing business.
“By not sticking to a cookie cutter (way of doing business), you can get a better product, and you get something more creative and more beautiful," she said.
Bridges said if she needs to leave something out of an arrangement, she can always add something new or a variety of colors.
Owner of CB’s Pizza at Lakewood Ranch, Bill Chaltis said hard work is behind his ability to offer a quality product in the face of supply shortages.
“The restaurant business involves working long hours with little pay,” Chaltis said. “It’s been that way ever since the government shut down everything.”
While he said the flow of customers continues to improve, the price and supply chain issues remain a hurdle. “We’ve have catastrophic 200% price increases in a lot of products over the last four or five months,” he said. “Just bam!”
Like restaurants everywhere, he said he struggles to buy basic ingredients for his pizza such as beef and sausage.
For Chaltis, the key has been investing more time in procuring items. During a national shortage of biscuit mix, he created his own instead. Chaltis said when substituting ingredients, he puts the effort into finding substitutes that don’t impact quality.
He said since his customers are doing better now, the outlook is bright than it was after the pandemic began.
“We’re very happy that we came through it,” he says of the economic situation, “and our business is strong now.”
Hugo Rodriguez, manager of the PlayTri branch at University Town Center, said he sees lots of shortages in the bike industry and that bike shops are most commonly struggling with obtaining parts and new bikes to sell.
The best way to accommodate customers, he said, is to accept trade-ins and use the bike parts for other fixes, along with preparing used bikes to sell.
He said if a wheel is bent out of shape due to an accident, the store will be sure to remove whatever spokes are in good condition and save these for other repairs.
According to Rodriguez, the pandemic has doubled the amount of tune-ups the store performs on bicycles. Since moving to University Park from Sarasota about three months ago, the business has performed about 25 tune-ups a week, but he expects the number to grow to 60.
“We only have one mechanic who goes above 42 hours a week. And then we offer a 24-hour service (to do a repair). So once people realized that anybody else could give you two weeks and and we give you 24 hours, that's fast service, and the word of mouth spreads pretty quick.”
Steve Brite, owner of Fairfax Floors, which is located in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, and Bradenton, said when the pandemic first hit, he briefly wondered if this was the end of his business. But then he decided to get proactive. “We got ahead of it by buying inventory,” he said.
As prices started to rise, the store obtained an additional warehouse and acquired numerous materials from multiple vendors, locking in the prices of the items. “And so the people that come in now, you know, are still paying the prices from six months or a year ago,” he said.
Brite said he cannot speak for the situation of all other businesses, but that he’s seen many which have used the economic climate as an excuse to be a failure.
“The way I look at it, is that you can think that it's going to be terrible, and business is going to be terrible," he said. "You're going to lose, or you can think that we're going to take advantage of this and do our best and be positive. Either way, you're thinking you're going to be right, because it's a mindset.”
The company has a cable TV commercial filming this month and airing on Spectrum, themed around the store’s ability to tell customers that “there is no bad news.”
Larry Remington, owner of the restaurant Remy’s on Main, says all the restaurants he knows are facing issues with hiring.
Larry and Barbara Remington saw the opening of their Lakewood Main Street restaurant, Remy's, delayed by a month due to pandemic issues.
They opened Jan. 10 and didn't received the last piece of their needed restaurant equipment until February.
Fortunately, the Remingtons have family members who are key workers in the operation.
Even so, he has been hit hard due to a supply chain shortage in workers. He remains five or six employees short of what is needed to run the restaurant in the hours he intended. He has shortened the hours for the time being.
He said he is fortunate because his restaurant has been packed since it opened. The good feedback keeps them smiling.
Remington said he now keeps tabs on local businesses so if his primary supplier, U.S. Food Services, can't deliver an item, he turns to other sources such as Restaurant Depot and Gordon Foods, both of which purchase their items locally.
Nonetheless, he’s happy to see an increasing base of customers. “It’s getting a little bit better than a year ago,” he says. “And I think it's starting to get better and more exciting to see daylight. People are feeling more comfortable when they go out.