SCV businesses prepare to reopen

Maintenance worker Rene Martinez sprays BioPledge AntiMicrobial Protection spray on the interior of a car at Valencia Acura on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As the state and county continue to announce plans to ease stay-at-home restrictions, allowing some businesses to reopen as early as Friday, many of the businesses here in the Santa Clarita Valley have begun their preparations.

While West Coast Music Academy has been able to remain open for business through the quarantine by offering virtual classes, owner Jeff Novack says his staff has been in talks regarding how to begin safely offering in-person lessons when the time comes.

“What we’re planning on doing is we’re going to let the parents know that we’re going to open in phases,” Novack said, “so we might not have everybody at the school at once. We might gradually have a few teachers and then add a few more in. And, we’re still going to give them the option of doing the online lessons if they are more comfortable doing that.” 

Novack said they also plan on following the Centers for Disease Control’s health guidelines, as cleaning and sanitation are a priority for a business such as theirs that uses shared equipment. 

The staff will be tasked with cleaning highly touched surfaces and equipment in between lessons, while a third-party cleaning crew will be coming in weekly to do a deep sanitization, Novack said.

“We’re going to be outfitting all the staff with face masks, and we have infrared thermometers so we can take everyone’s temperature when they show up,” he added.  

In addition, they plan on only allowing student drop-offs and removing all the chairs from their lobby to allow for physical distancing.

Greg Pinker, co-owner of Voodoo Vinyl in Newhall, closed his shop a few days before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide order closing nonessential businesses.

“We didn’t feel that we were being responsible by having people in the store and possibly getting them sick, so we closed a little bit earlier,” Pinker said.

Maintenance crew member Berta Ortiz, left, cleans the one of the customer safety shields as Sales Manger Kabir Bahroos, center, Internet Director Drew Katigbak, and Internet Manager Belen Gonzales, right, prepare for customers at Frontier Toyota in Valencia on Thursday, May 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Though they’ve tried to do some online sales, that hasn’t been going very well, according to Pinker. “Records tend to be something that people want to hold and look at.”

Even so, they are starting to prepare for some semblance of a reopening.

“(We’re) starting to catalogue our records, so we can at least get what we don’t already have up online and we’re ready,” Pinker added. “So, we hope to have some ability to do this a little bit more proactively online and have the curbside (pickup).”  

Still, Pinker’s business, like many others that reside on Main Street in Newhall, rely on foot traffic.

“All of the restaurants bring in the foot traffic, all the events that happen, (and) without those, that’s definitely going to impact us,” he said.

Though employees at Graymar Heating & Air Conditioning are often working in homes or businesses, the only significant change they’ve seen is the implementation of wearing masks and gloves everywhere they go, according to owner Justin Siegen.

“As far as our industry goes, not really much has changed,” Siegen added. “(Our) equipment is all machine manufactured and everything usually comes pre-sealed or wrapped.”

Still, employees are instructed to keep their own health and safety a priority. 

Maintenance workers Eugenio Ramirez, left, and Leonel Guerra clean the showroom at Valencia Acura on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“When we go into somebody’s house, we’re wearing gloves and masks, (and) we expect the same from them,” Siegen said. 

Corporate employees at Beverly Hills Teddy Bear, a Newhall toy manufacturer that specializes in custom toys, gifts and plush, have been working remotely and plan on continuing to do so for however long is necessary.

“It’s actually worked out OK,” CEO David Socha said. “If business was better, it would have been fine, but business is rough. There’s no doubt about it.”

He, like many other retailers, hope that business will begin to pick up again as restrictions are lifted. “People need to go into stores and shop because there’s a lot of retailers on the brink of closing.” 

With schools remaining shut for the time being, Socha expects to continue working with his employees to figure out when they’ll be able to return to work. 

When they do choose to bring their employees back to the office, things will be different, and like most workplaces, sanitization will be a top priority, according to Socha. 

“There is no real normal anymore,” he said. “Normal is maybe that (the office) is open, but I’m a germophobe, so it’s going to be full-fledged masks, gloves if they need it, lots of sanitizer around.” 

Other Santa Clarita-based manufacturers, like Shimtech Industries, an aerospace components manufacturer, were deemed essential and able to remain open, though significant changes were made, as employees are often working in close quarters.

“We put a really big emphasis on hygiene, and I think this is true of every business,” CEO Brian Williams said during a webinar hosted by the SCV Chamber of Commerce and SCV Economic Development Corp. Wednesday. “In our case, we have a lot of machines that are making these parts, so we physically moved all the machines to create more spacing.” 

Maintenance crew member Berta Ortiz, sanitizes the door handles as the employees prepare for customers at Frontier Toyota in Valencia on Thursday, May 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Shimtech employees who can work remotely are doing so, while those required to come in have been split into three shifts and given staggered breaks and meals to reduce crowding. 

While Santa Clarita-based Bocchi Laboratories, a personal care products manufacturer, had its product volume dropped by 60% overnight, they were fortunate to have an alcohol supply for a product that allowed them to pivot their assembly lines into manufacturing much-needed hand sanitizer. 

“Our goal from the very beginning was to provide employees with a safer work environment than what they find outside the plant,” Bocchi Labs President Joe Pender said during the webinar.

That being said, they, too, have implemented much of the typical workplace changes, such as requiring temperature checks and altering shift times, but they have even gone as far as installing physical barriers between employees, according to Pender. 

Valencia Acura co-owners Don and Cheri Fleming are excited about being able to bring back the second half of their team. 

“I think we have sort of felt like we’ve had one leg chopped off by being able to have service open and not really have sales open,” Cheri Fleming said. “I look forward to calling a few of my salesmen who we unfortunately had to let go because they could not be doing sales as usual, but I know they want to come back to work, and I think we’re ready.”

That being said, they’ve utilized the closure as time to plan for their reopening. The dealership has undergone a deep cleaning, they’ve purchased new cleaning equipment for the cars, rearranged furniture to allow for physical distancing and employees have implemented public health guidelines. 

“We have great new habits, and I think we will be making our customers feel very safe and secure,” Cheri added.

To view all coronavirus-related stories, visit signalscv.com/category/news/cor2onavirus.

Signal Staff Writer Tammy Murga contributed to this report. 

General Manager Bob Corson, left, and Sales Consultants Bien Tarroza Jr. and Genardo Calzadillas stand next to a plastic customer safety shield as they prepare for customers at Frontier Toyota in Valencia on Thursday, May 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signalr customer

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