Taylor Burke, Contributing Writer
Farmington’s essential businesses are working hard to serve their communities through the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), but since Maine Governor Janet Mills mandated the stay-at-home order, this hard work doesn’t come without challenges.
Franklin Printing, just five minutes away from UMF, has remained open because the customers they serve are part of essential industries. “The two general categories we service are medical supplies and food packaging,” said David Nemi, Marketing and Sales Manager at Franklin Printing, in an email interview. “One of our customers, Abbott Laboratories, is manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. We print the materials included with each kit.”
Nemi is very appreciative of how the staff is responding to the changes involving how business is being done. “We have a dedicated team who works hard to service our customers,” he said. “When Abbott needed COVID-19 materials from us in 24 hours, we rose to the occasion, working over the weekend to make a delivery on a Sunday morning.”
Franklin Printing is working hard to protect both its staff and customers in accordance with precautions concerning COVID-19. The building isn’t allowing any visitors except for those who are essential. In addition, they are constantly cleaning surfaces, practicing social distancing, and providing all employees with masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. “Everyone is adapting and understands our good decisions now will bring a better tomorrow that much sooner,” Nemi said.
Even though Franklin Printing is experiencing a decrease in business and have been forced to cut hours for their production team, Franklin Printing is using the challenges they’ve faced as a learning and growing opportunity. “Our goal is to make sound decisions now so there is no long-term financial impact,” Nemi said. “We are taking advantage of the various stimulus programs the state and federal government are offering to provide financial assistance to employees.”
Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, a pizza restaurant near Narrow Gauge Theater that opened in January, has been overwhelmed by the community response that it’s received over the changes. Mary Jamison, owner of the restaurant, has had to make, including laying off new employees, running the business by herself, and switching to take-out only. “The support from the community and the customers is amazing and humbling,” she said in a phone interview. “Everybody that comes in has been super friendly.”
Being a new business trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for Jamison, especially in the efforts to receive federal aid. “We don’t have a lot of the documentation that they’re needing,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to make it work.” This has included contacting banks and other resources recommended to her in order to get the assistance she needs. “It’s like starting the business all over again,” she said.
To keep everyone safe, Jamison is following social distancing guidelines and has made changes to how she interacts with customers. “It has all been a challenge, but we’re doing it.”
Jamison is also giving back to the community to those in need during these tough times. “We donated food for the kids’ meals through W.G. Mallett School,” she said. “We also worked with the Children’s Task Force to donate some pizzas to families in need.”
The Pierce House, a residential care facility located on Main Street in Farmington, also has the goal of keeping spirits alive for those that they serve. Administrator Darlene Mooar and her staff are doing everything they can to accommodate for new recommendations while also continuing to offer the same way of life that the residents enjoy. “We are providing the opportunity to carry on their most precious activities (exercise, Bingo, and sitting on the porch) by modifying the room set up to accommodate for social distancing.” They had to inform Pierce House residents and family members that there would be visiting restrictions
With these visiting restrictions in place, Mooar was worried about the residents. “My greatest concern is the risk of separation anxiety from their usual visits,” she said. However, her team still plans to support residents just like they always have. Through the kindness of those in the community, The Pierce House has been able to exceed the needs of their residents to make them as comfortable and safe as they can.
The Pierce House staff are reporting any symptoms of respiratory infection, taking their temperature before starting their shifts, and wearing surgical masks, cloth face shields, and face shields when needed. “The best thing I have seen is the employees’ willingness to do everything necessary to protect each other, the residents, and their own families,” said Mooar. “We are the armor that shields our most critical resource: human beings.”
Despite the challenges Farmington businesses are facing, they are still going strong with the support of their customers, community, and staff. Their resiliency is a true testament to how important togetherness and dedication are in times of uncertainty.