COPING WITH COVID: Sully's Steamers.

Coping with COVID

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.

Contact Ross Norton,rnorton@scbiznews.com,with any questions or ideas.

Keven Dobbs looks up and down College Avenue in Clemson and sees a few open doors and a lot that are closed.

He doesn't like the empty streets or the locked doors, but he did see an opportunity to find new customers.

His Sully's Steamers restaurant was open just two months before part of it closed by order of the governor, who decided and Dobbs doesn't disagree that dining rooms should be shuttered for the health and safety of a public dealing with COVID-19, the new coronavirus.

Scalability was one of the things about Sully's Steamers that appealed to the entrepreneur. He knew he could scale up for robust times like football Saturdays and scale down for slower times, such as summers and holidays important flexibility in a town where the university's student enrollment exceeds the local population.

The eighth week of business was supposed to be robust, however. College Avenue was supposed to be jammed with students, faculty, university staff and the web of people they attract. Clemson University extended spring break, though, and eventually moved classes online during the same week that Gov. Henry McMaster's ordered dining rooms to close. It was a double blow to downtown Clemson. Where motorists generally drive with a foot on the brake, stopping constantly for a steady stream of pedestrian traffic, there was hardly a car, rarely a pedestrian.

The way Dobbs saw it, there was really nothing else to do but keep selling his sandwiches on that first day of a dining room-less state, and every day since.

"I took the menu out and went to a bunch of businesses on (U.S. Highway) 123 and College Ave, everywhere they were open, and said 'hey,'" Dobbs said. "I said 'hey' and reminded them that we are open. You are always looking for differentiator in business and if it's as simple as 'we're open and they're not' then it keeps us ahead of the curve."

Sully's Steamers doesn't have a drive-though window, so Dobbs or his staff carry orders to the sidewalk. He said there's no way to measure the success of his efforts, but on Monday...

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