For MetroWest’s new business owners, the pandemic was the biggest hurdle

For MetroWest’s new business owners, the pandemic was the biggest hurdle

Downing decided against opening for takeout only, believing he would not see much business because the distillery was not yet established. “All of our restaurant staff were supposed to start March 17,” said Downing, who serves as president of the West Central Street distillery. “Of course, we only thought this would be for two weeks. I would certainly say there was a level of disbelief.”

“We didn’t have brand recognition,” he said. Opening a business can be a stressful process during normal times, but that was ratcheted up for several new businesses that opened during the ongoing pandemic.

The distillery, which now offers appetizers, entrees and desserts to go along with grain-to-glass spirits, began operating as a takeout business in May. Customers could purchase family-style meals and to-go bottles of spirits. A month later, outdoor dining was permitted. “It’s definitely daunting, starting under those circumstances,” said Downing, whose distillery relied on social media and word of mouth to succeed in its early months. “You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself.”

More:Starting to pour As the coronavirus pandemic raged in March and throughout April, forcing bars and restaurants to remain closed, Downing knew he had to pivot again.

She characterized the store’s opening as a lifelong dream. A few miles north, Alyson Cox opened Word on the Street, an independent bookstore, in downtown Marlborough in October. Cox’s first job after graduating from college was at an independent bookstore, where her passion to one day open her own shop continued to grow.

More:’A lifelong dream’ for new bookstore’s owner “For me, I don’t know any different,” she said. “I don’t know what it was like to open a business without a pandemic. If there’s a business that needs to open at this time, this is it.” But it was not without challenges. Coronavirus cases began ticking upward in Marlborough and throughout the region not long after Word on the Street opened, which Cox said made her nervous, but she forged on.

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