Business & entrepreneur roundup: Dealing with pandemic, opening/reopenings, and an expansion

by beth on May 28, 2020

Post image for Business & entrepreneur roundup: Dealing with pandemic, opening/reopenings, and an expansion

Above: I’m rounding up highlights on some Southborough businesses and others run by Southborough residents. (images L-R cropped from Twitter, Facebook, and Facebook)

With more businesses in Massachusetts reopening or planning to, it’s time to check in again on how businesses rooted in Southborough are handling the pandemic.

I already updated you on salons in town. Now’ I’m taking a look at other stores, businesses, how town businesses and resident entrepreneurs. I can’t tell you what’s going on with all of them, but I did find some highlights worth sharing.

(If your Southborough business has a newsworthy update, you can email mysouthborough@gmail.com.)

Reopening guidance

For businesses owners figuring out their reopening plans, the Economic Development Committee posted relevant links to forms and timeline. Click here to open the page.

Hall of Comics

Curbside business and preparing to open doors

The Southborough based comic store has continued to operate during the pandemic with online sales and its regular weekly Facebook Live After Dark online auctions. (I loved one clear shout out to the strange times, with a weekly raffle prize in April that included a mega-pack of toilet paper.)

Starting this week, the store was one of the small businesses whose doors were closed that was allowed to begin offering in-person sales via curbside pickup.

Hall of Comics curbside imageOn Monday, the store posted an updated Facebook story explaining the new curbside rules and hours and tweeted the news.

Yesterday, Boston 25 News covered how the store was handling the change:

Like many small businesses, [co-owner Jake Johnston] said his shop has spent time developing new protocols for sales at the store’s front door, as well as delivery to a customer’s car if they call ahead. Looking ahead to the next phase, when customers are allowed back inside, Johnston and his partners also redesigned the floor plan to get rid of small aisles and facilitate social distancing while browsing. . .

“As a small business, I think one of our biggest takeaways was seeing the support come out from our fan community; that they do recognize the hard work it takes to run a small business [and] that they didn’t forget about us,” Johnston said.

Sew Studio

Donating facemasks and promoting grad gifts

facemasks (Sew Studio Facebook)With no in person classes to conduct, Southborough’s Betsy Gobron and Jen Hulton found a non-profitable way to stay busy. The duo, with help, have sewed over 3,000 facemasks this spring.

The studio has been giving away the masks for free to anyone who asks. (Though, they have also been accepting donations to cover material costs.) You can request small, child-sized masks or regular masks. For details, click here.

That doesn’t mean the team hasn’t had any for-profit projects. They’ve continued to sell items online including their sewing kits (for hand or machine sewing).

Memory quilts (Sew Studio Facebook)They’ve also been doing custom ordered sewing projects. Currently, they are marketing memory quilts and blankets for graduates made up of old t-shirts and team jerseys. Customers can drop off shirts and pickup finished products. Click here for details.

RXAdvance 

Planning big expansion

According to an announcement posted on EDC’s website last week, one Southborough company is making plans to greatly grow its workforce in town:

RxAdvance will be doubling its workforce, expanding into additional offices in Southborough.

Southborough’s home-grown RxAdvance is planning to expand its operations in town by taking up considerable additional office space at 136 Turnpike Road. The building, vacated by Olympus Corp., will enable RxAdvance to more than double its staff size to about 500 workers. The company plans to move into the 80,000 sq ft office building by the end of July.

RxAdvance is currently located in a roughly 30,000-square-foot space at 2 Central Park Drive. The company provides pharmacy benefit management technology to health plans, exchanges, state Medicaid programs, employer groups and accountable care organizations, or ACOs.

Mr. Ravi Ika formed the company in 2013 and expects revenue this year to top $2 billion. Among its major investors are Walgreens and Centene, a Missouri-based health plan manager, both of which formed a strategic partnership with RxAdvance last fall for what they called a new model for pharmacy management.

Mr. Ika is also the founder of Ikasystems which was sold to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2015.

Nearby eateries run by Southborough residents

The following two stories aren’t focused on businesses based in town. They’re media coverage of businesses in neighboring towns owned/run by Southborough residents.

Sugar Heaven opens mid-pandemic

According to Wicked Local, roommates Isabella Brito and Fernanda Rocha started baking and decorating cakes out of their Southborough apartment. After building a following, the two invested in opening a neighborhood bakery in Marlborough: 

They found an available storefront on Mechanic Street and began renovating the property earlier this year with the aim of opening this spring. . .

Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“It was very bad timing,” said Brito. “We were a little bit unsure if we should open or not. …What if we open and nobody shows up?”

Despite the challenges of launching a small business during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Brito and Rocha opened Sugar Heaven Bakery on April 30. They decided to move forward with the opening, in hopes that their tasty treats would help bring smiles to faces across the community during these challenging times.

“It is hard, but we’re trying to make it work,” said Brito.

You can read the full Wicked Local story here.

Jamie Eldridge at Sugar Heaven from FacebookYou can also check them out on Facebook here, including this photo right posted by Senator Jamie Eldridge after he popped by.

According to the story (and evident in Facebook posts), in addition to traditional yummy bakery treats you can find some Brazilian twists.

Two Mauro’s Cafés

Earlier this spring, two stories in Wicked Local gave a glimpse at how a new offshoot to Southborough’s Mauro’s Village Café was doing. 2 Mauro’s Café opened in Ashland in January. The restaurant is run by Southborough’s Dean Lewis (and owned by former residents Steve and Shawn Mauro). The team decided to keep the doors open for takeout during the pandemic.

In March, the restaurant was one of the businesses that took part in public-private partnership launched to feed people during the pandemic. Wicked Local wrote that the program, funded by the Ashland Emergency Fund served a secondary benefit as stimulus for the restaurants.

At the start of the month, Wicked Local wrote about the anxiety of small business owners waiting for the state’s reopening plan to be announced. The article again focused on the Ashland business, noting that after a strong start, business declined since stay-at-home orders were issued.

But both restaurants are mentioned as remaining open 7 days per week for takeout and waiting on federal loans. You can read the story here.

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