Local businesses get innovative as they adopt creative solutions to keep things running during a pandemic.
Jason Montigel of La Tacodilla
Jason Montigel had a very good thing going. His 16-seat restaurant, Clean Slate Eatery in West Dennis catered to those with a discerning palate as he offered two 10-course tasting menus to diners lucky enough to get one of the coveted seats in his establishment, which grew out of his popular success of pop-up dinner clubs. “All of a sudden we realized that whether we knew it or not, we were out of business when the Governor issued an order closing inside dining,” Montigel recalls. “This is what I do, I cook for people. I had to figure out a way to keep doing that. It’s just who I am.”
Montigel’s path was one that delightfully surprised many; the chef who had previously been one of the hottest tickets on the Cape, invested his passions into a food truck that serves up Tijuana-style birria tacos, all with Montigel’s innovative flair—including inventive vegan options like brussel sprouts and sweet potato—from the parking lot of his now defunct restaurant. La Tacodilla, a name concocted from an intersection between a taco and a quesadilla, offers unique interpretations of the beloved cuisine one might expect to find on the streets of Mexico or the beaches of Big Sur, not Cape Cod. “It really doesn’t matter what you cook,” Montigel says. “If you love food, and you source the freshest ingredients, you can still create something delicious.” These delicious delicacies have to be tried to be believed. Montigel says he is committed to keeping La Tacodilla open through the summer of 2021.
Jessie Gomes of The Beaded Wire
Jessica Gomes, owner of The Beaded Wire, a jewelry wholesaler whose designs are handmade locally in Harwich, saw her retailers forced to close in the spring with Governor Baker’s Stay-at-Home order. Her husband, who is handy beyond his duties as an electrician, helped Gomes transform a construction trailer into a custom mobile boutique from which she could sell her seaside inspired baubles. The boutique has an outdoor display bar where customers can peruse earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and anklets whose Swarovski crystals and beach glass twinkle and cajole passersby who are starved for a shopping fix. In addition, the inside of the boutique provides the kind of creature comforts rarely found in even the finest van conversions. Recessed lighting, shiplap paneling, air conditioning and heat for the colder months make the shopping experience exactly what it should be: comfortable and stress free.
As establishments started to reopen in the summer of 2020, Gomes continued to make the rounds with her roaming retail solution, but partnered with the brick and mortar stores that have been the bread and butter of her wholesale business. “We would make a plan as far as where we would be on which day and we would make it an event. I would show up and the store would bring things outside as well,” Gomes recalls. “The mobile boutique would attract attention and before long, shoppers would feel comfortable enough to linger for awhile and ultimately many of them went inside the shops as well.” This year, Gomes still sees a need for the flexibility that got so many through 2020, and says people can definitely find her adaptable answer to shopping adjacent to The Snow Goose Shop on Main Street in Harwich.
Shari Aussant of Mermaids of Cape Cod
Shari Aussant, owner of Mermaids on Cape Cod, a popular boutique on Route 28 in West Dennis, is another smart cookie that understands the value of being on the move. Aussant, whose infectious smile illuminates everything she does, has taken her business on the road for years with her iconic turquoise blue modified school bus that was literally a pre-COVID version of a mobile boutique. However, due to state regulations to keep shoppers safe, the bus that had previously been a fixture at every event across the Cape now was unable to welcome enthusiastic shoppers looking for beachside flair. “My customers have come to expect to see me and laugh and have fun, all while shopping. And I need them as well,“ Aussant shares. “So I made a concerted effort to put my energy into all of my social media. People keep telling me that they can’t turn on a screen without seeing a new post from me.” Leveraging the increased screen time people were logging, Aussant started to connect in a way that had a profound impact on her audience. “People ask me what I do for work and my response has become, ‘I sell happiness,’” she explains. “I love making fashion or gift recommendations in the boutique to my customers, but really, if I can touch their lives with laughter and grins and just an overall positive experience, then I’ve done my job.” And what are the tangible results of sharing her infectious smile, giddy laughter and iconic Cape Cod backdrops with her posts? Aussant says that even after the boutique reopened, virtual sales are keeping her busier than she ever imagined.
Samantha Leonard & Corrie Mays of The Plum Porch
Samantha Leonard and Corrie Mays, the dynamic sister duo who own The Plum Porch in Marstons Mills also benefited from the power of social media during the pandemic. The popular gift shop had debuted a seasonal dress boutique in 2019. As the boutique was poised to reopen for its first full season on the first day of spring in 2020, Leonard and Mays found themselves unable to open with the Governor’s order a week before. Determined to prevail, the women engaged their energizing and enterprising spirit and launched live shopping events on their Facebook and Instagram platforms. “People ask us what the live shopping events are like, and we tell them, think of QVC online,” Mays explains. Sure enough the two hosts exchanged banter and laughs as well as anecdotes from their lives, all while showcasing dresses and accessories to a real time audience that weighed in with live posted comments. The sessions, regularly scheduled once a week, during the evenings at 8:30 after evening responsibilities have wrapped up, became so popular, micro watch parties started to tune in for the fun. The shopping events have been so successful, they continue almost a year after their conception. “People still come in to the store,” Mays says, as Leonard finishes her sentence, “And they say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Mays finishes by saying, “You guys got us through a really tough time.”
Jitka Borowick of Nové Yoga
They say timing is everything. Jitka Borowick, owner of Nové Yoga and Wellness, a spectacular new studio in West Dennis, knows that to be more true than she had ever imagined. Borowick, who has experienced over a decade of success on the Cape with her Clean Green cleaning company, was finally at place in her life where she could dedicate herself and all of her valuable resources to her ultimate dream: creating a business that advanced health and wellness through yoga, meditation and mindfulness. The master plan called for a state-of-the-art facility that would welcome clients with a variety of options for their pursuit of health and peace. The new center was scheduled to open in April of 2020; the universe had other plans.
“We were focused on the beginning of something that I had imagined for so long, and then we hit a dead end,” Borowick remembers. “No one knew when places like yoga studios would be able to reopen, and under what conditions?” Thankfully, the plans for the business had incorporated a spacious studio to be used for video production. Borowick and her team fast-tracked the production schedule to create a robust offering of taped sessions that provides virtual access to their members, in the safety and security of their home, as their schedule allowed. Borowick and her roster of instructors are all focused on one thing: helping people find their own path to health.
Emily Katz of B/SPOKE
B/SPOKE, the popular spin studio in Boston that opened a satellite studio, “The Cape House” in Mashpee Commons a few years ago, also found themselves at a crossroad on March 16, 2020 when the state regulations shuttered businesses like theirs. Emily Katz, Director of Studios, says the entire team at B/SPOKE jumped on a call the next day and started to brainstorm. “We started thinking on a bigger and grander scale and took advantage of using this time out of the studio to reimagine our goals. We were able to finally consider green-lighting a bunch of ideas that we had on the back burner and never seemed possible because we were so busy running the day-to-day.” Those creative moments launched virtual offerings for this organization as well. “We thought, if people can’t get to the studio, let’s get the classes to them,’ Katz recalls, a concept perfectly poised given the worldwide phenomenon that the global brand of Peleton was concurrently experiencing. In addition to spin classes, the team at B/SPOKE developed online yoga and strength training classes for members who did not have access to a bike in their home.
The response from the public was profound, and according to Katz, gave the organization the confirmation that during this time of internal reflection people were experiencing, their product offering was both empowering as well as nurturing. As the weather improved through the spring and summer months, the creative team had another revolutionary idea. “We decided to do a pop-up outdoor spin class in the parking lot at Mashpee Commons for the Fourth of July weekend,” Katz remembers. “Our studio staff set up 50 bikes that we stored in storage pods in the parking lot, and the classes filled up.“ They continued with the classes through October, as the bikes were wheeled out of the storage pods early in the morning, and back in when the day’s classes ended. Yoga and strength training classes found a home on the grassy expanse of The Commons’ band shell, previously enjoyed by concert-goers from another time and era.
The years of 2020 and 2021 certainly have earned their place in the history books, but for Cape Cod businesses, many whom have struggled to stay afloat during such life altering times, and many who have invested everything they have to try new things, the wide ranging innovation and creativity have made the Cape a shining example of resilience.