‘Doing things differently’: Berkeley businesses react to county red tier

Image of theater
Ryder Mawby/Staff
Businesses in Alameda County are now allowed to open at 25% maximum capacity but some do not plan to change current operations.

Related Posts

One year ago, Whitney Singletary-White was supposed to be celebrating the one year anniversary of opening a storefront for her cookie shop, Nuttin’ Butter Cookies. However, when the pandemic hit, she had to close shop, max out her credit cards and was denied a plea to end her lease.

Singletary-White sought help for her business through government aid but was met with challenges, such as being told her business was too small and that she had a late payment from months ago, which resulted in Singletary-White’s ineligibility to receive grants.

“They were making excuses for not making support for especially small Black businesses, and I’m a small, Black, woman-owned business,” Singletary-White said. “I don’t need stimulus. You know what I do with ‘no’s’? They make me work harder.”

On Tuesday, Alameda County was given permission by the state of California to move into the red tier of reopening. According to the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, businesses in the county are now allowed to open at 25% maximum capacity. However, some businesses are not looking to change how they are currently operating.

Singletary-White is running her business out of a makeshift driveway storefront at her home. With sneeze guards, display cases, a tent and a service bell she can hear from her kitchen, she said the county’s red tier status  “does not change anything” for her.

“This doesn’t really affect me … it’s going to be the same thing all the way to green,” Singletary-White said. “We are getting slow progress, but for me, I wish they would not rush it.”

Julia Elliott, managing partner of Nabolom Bakery, said she is also maintaining caution in her operations. Even with some restrictions lifted, she is not going to open outdoor seating. Elliott claimed that if she does, people are going to behave as if the pandemic is over, and then “somebody’s mom dies.”

Elliott added that it is also an issue of equity, and she would consider reopening seated dining if all food workers were vaccinated and if people felt generally safe. However, she empathizes with business owners that are dependent on their shops being open, seeing as though it could be a long time before that happens.

With a staff of about 15, Elliott is running a tight ship at Nabolom Bakery and has secured vaccines for her employees that were eligible and wanted them. She also had many conversations related to COVID-19 with her staff, particularly those who were students.

“We had a lot of talks … we think you should care about people,” Elliott said. “If you want to go to frat parties then you can’t work here.”

Though business owners such as Singletary-White intend to continue “doing things differently,” they are still looking to the future with post-pandemic plans for their shops.

In fact, Singletary-White has considered buying a food truck as her next big step, saying that she would be like the ice cream man bringing cookies to people instead of customers coming to her. Regardless, she does not plan to change her operation until the county is at least back to the green tier.

Contact Matt Brown at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @maattttbrown .