Blake Garfield doesn’t hesitate when asked what steps he took to adjust Bedrooms & More to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Gosh, there are a lot of things,” said Garfield, General Manager and Primary Product Developer of the Seattle furniture store.
The list of changes included reducing employee hours; installing plexiglass safety shields; shifting much more business online; getting masks and buying protective gloves and hand sanitizer; securing two federal loans; allowing employees to share available hours; filling online orders from the company warehouse for the nearly three months the showroom was closed; and getting behind the wheel of the delivery truck himself to drive orders to customers.
Garfield also needed a little more help along the way. One of his vendors donated 1,000 masks to improve the safety of employees during the first few months of the pandemic.
Early on, the payroll had to shrink from 37 full-time employees to 10. He found himself drawing on many of the lessons his parents taught him through the 49 years the store has been open. Shrinking the payroll while needing to spend more as revenues were dropping was something Garfield’s parents, Jeff and Wanda, prepared him to face.
“The credit goes to my parents, they’ve been through enough recessions,” he said. “We knew how to get lean when we had to get lean.”
Garfield was able to bring employees back when the store was allowed to reopen last spring in a limited fashion. Looking back on the challenges so far, Garfield cited two things: making sure his employees felt safe in the store and being transparent with them about the challenges the store was facing.
Employees who feel unsafe will radiate it to customers, whether they intend to or not, Garfield said.
“You have to be able to communicate well and keep your employees safe,” he said. “It’s an investment in your future. This is the cost of doing business in a pandemic.”
Despite the fear and anxiety the pandemic has caused ownership and the employees, Garfield keeps the faith. Now that vaccines are being administered throughout the state and nation, his hopes for the future are improving.
Looking back over 2020, Garfield said: “I was never thinking that we would not survive.”
The store’s 50th anniversary is this September.