As residents across the nation are adapting to the new procedures that COVID-19 pandemic has brought, so are the residents and business owners of Oakland Park, who are slowly easing into the routine of a new normal.
How does business not only survive but thrive during a pandemic? The universal answer is to be adaptable and be here for one another. I recently reached out to some local business entrepreneurs in Oakland Park to see how it is that they’ve adapted during the pandemic and what are the next steps to establish a sense of normalcy.
So…who has this Pandemic affected? Well COVID-19 does not affect one specific type of business, but it does affect each business differently.
The businesses I chatted with were Realtor®, Desiree Avila and Dan Vawter, Vice President of AquaChamps swim school. Each had its own version of COVID19, how it affected them, their business, and their clients and how they each had their version of a success story of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Desiree Avila has been a Realtor® for the past five years. She works at Charles Rutenberg Realty LLC, just across the street from Pulte’s new Oak Tree in Oakland Park. Real estate is a cornerstone of the American economy and is considered an essential business, and therefore is not closed. The effects of the quarantine were felt almost immediately.
Desiree recounts that “Florida Realtors® and the National Association of Realtors® immediately sent out COVID-19 addendums which needed to be added to their contracts.” These addendums needed to provide provisions related to the crisis that might be necessary to protect all parties in a transaction. Another way real estate was affected was by conducting other activities virtually. For instance, virtual showings have existed and been used previously, but now so more often than usual and in addition to virtual showings and open houses all contract signings are done online with the exception of closings.
The resulting shutdown which came from COVID-19 was foreign to many folks across the nation. Many had emergency plans set. For instance here in Florida, we’re accustomed to prepping for hurricane season. However, COVID-19 was not like a hurricane, therefore different adjustments needed to be made. Desiree accepted this challenge: “I firmly believe in every challenge there is an opportunity so I chose to look at this through that lens and what opportunity this challenged offered me as a Realtor®.”
AquaChamps Swim Schools has taught generations of children and adults throughout the decades. They were getting ready to open the doors to their new aquatic facility on March 30 prior to shutting their doors on March 13th. On a typical day, Aqua Champs would have been filled with lots of smiles, high fives, stickers, coaches, swimmers, and families. Dan Vawter, Vice President of AquaChamps Swim School, said:
“We were just getting ready to open a bigger facility with lots of new programming so not only would we have our private and group swimming lessons for children and adults; but we would also be offering water therapy with Holy Cross Hospital, Parents Morning Out Camp, parties and other educational classes for parents.”
As previously mentioned, just like many other businesses in South Florida, the typical emergency preparations are for hurricane season, and for AquaChamps working with water and children they also had emergency action plans, but like everyone else had to make adjustments for this new “pandemic” to their emergency procedures.
In real estate the trends, you typically hear of a “buyer’s market” or a “seller’s market”. Simply put in a buyer’s market, the economic situation favors the buyers since prices are low, whereas a seller’s market the economic situation favors the sellers who can keep their prices higher. But with COVID-19 the economic situation was like no other, both buyers and sellers paused for a moment unsure about what the shutdown would mean for them.
Thankfully through the use of technology the real estate business was able to quickly adapt offering more virtual showings and virtual open houses. Through this, Desiree tells us that she is beginning to see a resurgence in confidence from both buyers and sellers:
“The transition back for me won’t be very difficult. What it will mean mostly is that we will go out for showings vs. virtual showings. I am OPEN for business! I had to adapt but I am ready to serve the needs of those that would like to buy or sell or that just have questions and need some professional advice about real estate.”
For AquaChamps swim school they’ve been communicating with their clients and staff on a regular basis through email and texting. They also use social media to send special messages, drowning prevention tips, and other information to the community. Dan explains that when AquaChamps does reopen, they will have to do it in phases that are guided by the City of Oakland Park, the Florida Department of Health, and the CDC.
“The great thing about swimming pools is that chlorine is the best disinfectant! So when we do open, we will start with private lessons, family lessons, and water therapy. This way we can maintain the number of people in our facility at one time, and we can also schedule sanitation times throughout the day.”
Some of these smaller local businesses also had the option to take out Small Business Administration (SBA) or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to help keep them afloat during the pandemic. These loans are not a one size fits all solution and some business that had applied for the loans, immediately after the pandemic was announced, did not see funds until the second wave of loan distribution. Some business owners decided to not opt for these loans altogether because of the uncertainty of how their business would continue to thrive in the future as well as the burdensome to have to pay back these loans during (slow business).
The small business owners and entrepreneurs of Oakland Park need our support, whether it’s by sharing a social media post about their business or buying gift cards for future use. Desiree is available to help anyone looking for a hardworking, trustworthy Realtor®. Dan, from AquaChamps swim school, tells us:
“We cannot wait to get our staff, our swimmers and our families back in the water! Now that the weather is warming up, we are approaching the time of year when most drownings occur. We are anxious to get back to providing our families with a critical part of drowning prevention, swimming lessons!”.
AquaChamps swim school encourages to give the gift of learning to swim to a child or adult is not only lifesaving but rewarding. “We do sell gift certificates for lessons or products in our retail store,” explains Dan.
These businesses of Oakland Park are geared up and ready to serve its community when the time is right and making sure to keep everyone’s safety a top priority.
Maria Scudella-Beltran was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey, right outside of New York City. She moved to South Florida in 2004 and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors’ degree in Marketing and Communications.
In 2010, she purchased her first home in the North Andrews Gardens area in Oakland Park. After several years of working in the retail industry, Maria took on a part-time internship at a marketing agency and continued her education through Walden University where she earned her Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications.
Currently, she works in Marketing and during her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.