Four new Topsail-area businesses — Topsul Nutrition, Sea Blue Coffee & Gifts, unWINEd and Burry Chocolates — have faced the challenges of opening during a pandemic, but they’re confident they’ll find success this season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious effect on small business owners this spring. Many have struggled with just how to handle orders for staying at home and operating only essential businesses. For those who had just opened or were planning to open a new business, the challenges have been even greater. However, small business owners in the Topsail area are determined and confident that they will be successful as they press on with their plans.
Lexi Pickle, owner of Topsul Fitness in Sneads Ferry, says that her new venture, Topsul Nutrition, opened the week before the statewide shutdown and has not “had a chance to be open without coronavirus.” Considered an essential business, she was allowed to continue operating the nutrition store even as the fitness center was forced to close because of the virus-related restrictions.
Sea Blue Coffee & Gifts owner Elsie Yusufi had planned to open her new shop in March but was delayed until May 10, Mother’s Day. She says they “were ready to go” and then had to suddenly put all their plans on hold.
Tracey Shugarts had plans to open her wine bar, connected to her coffee business, The Daily Grind, on Easter Sunday. The April 12 open date became a May 22 soft opening for unWINEd in Surf City. They did not open “full-fledged,” instead offering food, wine and beer to go only.
Brandon and Emily Burry still have not opened Burry Chocolates in Hampstead but are confident they’ll be able to do so by early July. Their opening, originally planned for Mother’s Day, has been delayed by the effects COVID-19 has had on the process of permitting and ordering supplies, in addition to the need to prepare their store for social-distancing requirements. They were actually “in the middle of planning the business when everything started.”
Despite the roadblocks that stood in their way, these local business owners continue to be optimistic about their future in the community. They are making adjustments and plans that will enable them to serve their customers throughout the various stages of reopening during the pandemic.
All say they are confident things will get better. Burry Chocolates has a big following on social media of potential customers who are definitely ready for their opening date. Shugarts says she “feels very confident” that things will bounce back. Yusufi states “we’re going to be fine.”
Pickle is focused on making sure her employees as well as her customers continue to be taken care of and happy. Topsul Fitness made the decision to pay all of their employees their regular wages for their regular hours, even though the center had to close toward the end of March. Employees continue to help with the new business, Topsul Nutrition, and besides, Pickle says, they are “almost like family.”
unWINEd’s Shugarts says they will also “continue to employ as many people as we can employ.” In fact, she now has 25 employees, having brought back all but two from layoffs that occurred shortly after shutdown orders. She did have to layoff some employees at the beginning of the pandemic because she knew they “were not going to get the hours they deserved.”
Although the situation with COVID-19 has been uncertain and even scary for some, the support of locals as well as renters and other tourists has been tremendously encouraging. Yusufi is incredibly “thankful for the local people that live in the area and are coming in to support” her and her new business. She says the locals ask her how she is doing when they come in and reassure her by saying “we are here to support you.”
The Burry family, who come from a long line of chocolate makers, emphasize that “we’re going to get through it fine. We’ll be all right.” Brandon Burry’s inspiration was his grandfather, who started the Fudge Shop in Flemington, New Jersey, in 1961, which is still going strong. In fact, Brandon expects that many of his own family members will also be involved in Burry Chocolates once it launches in July. Noting that “chocolate puts a smile on anyone’s face,” he is eager to open.
Burry Chocolates will have homemade fudge, Almond Butter Crunch (his grandfather’s recipe for peanut brittle dipped in chocolate and dusted with crunched almonds), dipped graham crackers and other treats, as well as candy items such as licorice and gummy bears. Located at 21572 U.S. Highway 17 in Hampstead, the store will be open Tuesday through Saturday 9 am to 6 pm. They plan to partner with The Daily Grind to serve coffee in the early morning hours.
The Daily Grind’s wine bar, unWINEd, is located at 114 N. Topsail Drive in Surf City. They are open from 4 to 10 pm seven days a week. The coffee shop is open from 7 am to 10 pm seven days a week.
Sea Blue Coffee & Gifts, selling locally made beachy items such as jewelry, kitchen items, wall decor and bags, as well as items that feature the protective Evil Eye from Turkey, is located at 116C S. Shore Drive in Surf City. They are open from 7 am to 5 pm Sunday to Thursday and 7 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Topsul Fitness and Topsul Nutrition are staffed from 9 am to 6 pm and they are “silently opening the gym by appointment only.” They set 45-minute appointments for workouts, allowing 15 minutes in between for sanitizing the facility.