Berkeley small business owners discuss closures, online solutions

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Berkeley’s small business owners met virtually Thursday to discuss the actions they are taking to engage with customers and to financially support their businesses during the shelter-in-place order.

The meeting — led by Matthew Jervis, the Downtown Berkeley Association’s director of vitality — featured Berkeley business owners, who presented the actions they are taking to cope with closures associated to the coronavirus pandemic. Brand strategist Steven Donaldson also discussed possible marketing steps for small businesses.

“This is … a giant reset for small businesses,” Donaldson said during the discussion. “In the future, our online presence and engagement and the in-person engagement have to be more integrated because it will be somewhat of the expectation.”

Randeep Rekhi, owner of Bobby G’s Pizzeria, said the restaurant now relies on gift card purchases for income. Bobby G’s Pizzeria also started a fundraiser on GoFundMe, promising 25 meals to a hospital for every $200 donated.

According to Rekhi, the pizzeria has surpassed its goal of making and delivering 1,000 meals to those working in hospitals on the front line fighting the pandemic.

“My main goal is to stay in people’s thoughts, and the more they see Bobby G’s on Facebook or Instagram or think about us at all, that will help us get through this,” Rekhi said during the discussion. “And afterward, hopefully, people continue to keep us in mind.”

Erik Bigglestone, managing owner of Games of Berkeley, said his store is temporarily closed. The store is, however, moving many of its events, including game nights, online.

Although it is not shipping inventory out, Games of Berkeley is encouraging people to purchase from its available inventory and pick up orders when the outbreak calms.

To involve customers, Bigglestone said the store created a coloring book page of its storefront, which people can color at home.

He added that customers can buy merchandise from partnered manufacturers and mention Games of Berkeley at checkout, so the store receives a percentage of the sale.

Kirstie Bennett, founder and co-owner of The Framer’s Workshop in Berkeley, is also now largely relying on gift card sales. Bennett also discussed her new way of engaging customers with virtual art contests through Facebook.

After participants have the opportunity to vote for different works posted on Facebook, the winning artist has their work framed, and those who entered receive a $20 certificate to the store, bridging the online world with physical reality.

Bennett added that The Framer’s Workshop is now holding a contest, in which adults can take a picture of something they framed in their home and write about what it means to them.

“They have written such nice letters,” Bennett said during the discussion. “We love our customers, and we try really, really hard to communicate with them, especially during this time.”

Contact Dina Katgara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dinakatgara.