From a Paleta bus to slime kits, small companies have reinvented themselves to survive.
When the lockdown began in Puerto Rico on March 16, the governor’s executive order allowed restaurants, food trucks, and other food services to operate for delivery or takeout. Retail stores that sell food and basic products were also able to operate.
“The restaurant sector is struggling to reopen. I understand because even though they’re preparing meals for delivery, restaurants usually sell an experience. They offer an atmosphere, food made by a chef; that’s impossible to replicate when you’re delivering food on a plastic plate in a bag,” said Dr. Jorge Argüelles Morán, the president of Puerto Rico’s United Retailers Association.
The curfew has limited people’s capacity to buy specialized food and food-related products, so many small and medium businesses have found creative ways to get clients.
Señor Paleta. Owned by pharmacist Ramon Ortiz and doctor Jennifer Serrano, the ice-cream-bar purveyor closed its seven locations on the island due to the lockdown. To avoid their on-hand product going to waste, they created the Paleta Bus for delivery. The concept has been well received, so Ortiz and Serrano are working on expanding delivery days and servicing more municipalities.
Departamento del cóctel. This cocktail bar is known for sangria and cocktails made with natural ingredients. During the lockdown, they prepare drinks with watermelon, passion fruit, cucumber, and other tropical fruits and vegetables. They deliver on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays in the metro area.
Wood Doughnuts. This company has food trucks in Guaynabo, Bayamón, Hato Rey, and Arecibo, known for lush flavored donuts prepared on the spot. The trucks could have remained open, but owner Arnaldo Almodóvar faced difficulties. Staying open was impractical: cleaning products were expensive, the lines to get ingredients daily were long, and it was hard to find employees who were not afraid to come to work. Almodóvar shifted his model to delivery; on the first week he got five orders. After promoting on social media, the business now gets 75 to 100 orders a day.
Slime Party Workshop PR Kids Yoga. Owner Natividad Reyes combined her training as a yoga teacher with her daughter Sofía’s passion: slime! Reyes created slime workshops in order to spend more time with her daughter. She also came up with birthday party packages where she combines the slime workshops with yoga for kids.
“Our concept is called Playing Mindful. We encourage mindfulness to achieve our slime-making goal. For us, the focus and energy that we put into each step are extremely important. In the process of experimenting and playing, we are free and happy to express how we feel,” said Reyes. The curfew directly affected their activities, so they created Slime Kits for children and adults as a way to stay calm and entertained, and participate as a family. Slime Kits are available for delivery and takeout.
Massa. Brother and sister Gabriel and Natasha Garratón opened their business a year ago. Massa delivered ready-to-assemble homemade pasta and sauce dishes mostly to restaurants. Due to COVID-19, many of the restaurants that would buy their products are closed. Massa closed for a few weeks. Half a month ago they started to deliver again, mostly to homes. Before the pandemic, they received about 40 to 60 weekly orders from clients, now they get 90 orders a week. Natasha said their menu sold out within three hours after posting it on their social media.