Caterers dealing with rush of changes with virus lock-down.

Coping withCOVID

SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.

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Before staff enter the kitchen, management checks temperatures for fever. Gloves are changed much more frequently,and deep-cleans are performed around the clockat Hamby Catering and Events.

"It's been a rollercoaster of emotions around here,"said Candice Wigfield, owner and president of the Charleston company. "There have been very low-lows and very high-highs but the sense of camaraderie and the willingness for everyone to get creative and to pitch in and really work harder than we have ever worked before. It brings tears to my eyes every time I just step back and just kind of take in what we are trying to do.

Wigfieldsaid Hamby has lost over $400,000 in cancelled event revenue from South Carolina's outbreak of the new coronavirus. Still, through "contact-free" delivery and a mobile market opening in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday, Wigfield has built new avenues to rebound from the pandemic's blow to the hospitality industry.

"Very quickly, we realized we would have to pivot the direction of our business and get really creative about our strategies if we had any hope of surviving," Wigfield said.

As events began to dry up following the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in South Carolina, Wigfield was forced to layoff or furlough over 50% of her work force, primarily events preparation staff. Hamby retained a core food-preparation and management team of 15 to 20 people.

"We want Hamby as a company to survive so that on the other end of all this, everyone has a job to come back to," she said.

During peak season, Hamby employs 150 people.

"We just don't have work for them,and it's just devastating," she said. "For me as a small business owner to hear the stories of 'how am I going to make my rent, how am I going to feed my children,' it is just heartbreaking, and it all just happened so quickly. That's the brutal part of it. There was just no real time to prepare properly."

Still, Wigfield leapt to new opportunities that would evolve her business to meet community demands while keeping customers and employees safe from exposure to the virus. Prior to Gov. Henry McMaster's mandate to curb public gatherings more than 50 people, Hamby planned to offer family-sized casseroles, salads, chili...

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