MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Kelly Stroman doesn’t get out to meet with local businesses as much as she would like, but as president and CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, she knows many stores are struggling.
"I feel like we’re all family and so when they’re hurting, I’m hurting," she said.
What You Need To Know
- COVID-19 has caused many local businesses in Southern California to suffer
- Businesses in the South Bay are required by law in the to meet all the criteria of being a safe place to dine or shop
- After successfully registering with their chamber of commerce, these companies can now receive a "Safe in the South Bay" sticker to post in their store window
- This pledge is a growing trend in the South Bay, with well over 100 businesses following suit
She was getting ready to hand out the first window decals to businesses who have taken the “Safe in the South Bay” pledge.
"They have to meet all the criteria that the L.A. County Department of Health puts out with the health order for their type of business. They have to check off each one. Take a picture of that completed protocol with their signature. Post it in their window," she explained.
That’s all required by law, but South Bay businesses that take the extra step of filling out a free pledge form online and sending it to their local chamber of commerce can get a free window sticker.
"The first one goes to Shade Hotel!" Stroman exclaimed as she handed it to Bill Matthews, Vice President of Operations for the Zislis Group that owns the hotel and restaurant.
Stroman says that posting it by the entrance serves as a positive sign for employees and customers.
At last count, around 115 businesses have taken the pledge. More than 40 percent of those are in Manhattan Beach alone.
"We really hope it increases consumer confidence, so kind of like a restaurant. Think if you see an a rating next to a restaurant as you walk in, it’s safe," she said.
But unlike the restaurant grades which the health department enforces and oversees, the chamber can’t enforce protocols, yet she still hopes to educate businesses and act as an ally through what can be a puzzling process.
"Before we approve the final pledge and accept it, we’re making sure that they’ve done everything right and there is confusion sometimes," Stroman said.
"We still see a lot of guests that aren’t ready to travel yet," Matthews said.
He says room occupancy at Shade is down about 50 percent, but the restaurant is on par with last year after moving their indoor seating outside to follow the latest health order.
"If you don’t stay abreast of it can get away from you very fast. What’s legal today might not be tomorrow," he said.
Matthews says Shade was also among the first in the area to hire a COVID manager to oversee precautions and safety measures.
"I think this seal now gives another comfort level to guests coming in, that we're participating with it, that we’re on our game," Matthews said.
Down the street at Gum Tree, owner Lori Ford showed off the plexiglass at the counter and hand sanitizer throughout the store.
She says she’s offering everything she can to stay afloat.
"[Customers] can shop online. We can do FaceTime appointments through the store. We are taking phone orders. We are doing free delivery everywhere in the South Bay," Ford said.
She says since the pandemic began, she and her staff have spent countless hours trying to think up ideas to bring people in to the store and feel like she has exhausted all of her options, which is why she’s grateful to have another tool that could bring in more customers.
"It looks great!" she said after putting up the window decal.
And for Stroman, it's a small reminder that she’s here to support the business community no matter what the future has in store.