Small Businesses Look For Hope Amid COVID-19

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Paul and Cindy Freedman had hoped to throw a long awaited grand opening for their business, Dutch Creek Winery, in late March 2020.

Very slowly and then all at once, the United States, and more particularly, the state of Ohio, began react to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, right as the Freedmans were making preparations for a grand opening that would feature local artisans, food trucks, and a large crowd. Soon, the grand opening was moved to early April, with the hope that the spread of the virus would be more under control by then. Quickly it became apparent that the grand opening would not adhere to the state mandate that all restaurants and bars close indefinitely outside of delivery and pick up, which put the grand opening, as well as operating the business in general, on hold indefinitely.

“I do want to emphasize that we fully understand the protocols and we are doing our best to adhere to them,” said Freedman in an interview with WOUB that was originally going to profile the business’ grand opening. “But they have inflicted a bit of financial pain in us as we were ready to have the launch.”

Freedman said that things will be on hold at the winery until it is announced on a state and federal level “not only what is allowed, but what is best for everyone.”

Dutch Creek Winery has been in the making for years. Some 13 years ago Paul met Cindy, and the two soon made plans to purchase the 35 acres in Athens County that would eventually make up the 105 acre parent farm for Dutch Creek Winery. The two began the art of beekeeping, which allowed them to make their own honey, leading them to make baked goods, ice cream, and, very importantly, mead (honey wine). By 2014 the couple had perfected the art of making mead, and although a series of events made them consider selling the farm, a few of their friends convinced them that instead of selling the farm, they should be selling the wine they made.

Over the course of the next two years, and with the help of regional business incubator ACEnet, Cindy and Paul began to perfect their wine-making skills, which soon developed into skills to make a great variety of meads, non-alcoholic honey sodas, and most recently, a hard cider. In December 2019 Dutch Creek Winery decided to hold a soft opening, holding off on the grand opening until the spring, which seemed like the best time given the winery’s picturesque location.

Now, the business is in a bit of a limbo, offering a bottle carryout service on most Saturdays, after cutting hours for their already small staff.

“People have stopped by on Saturdays when we have limited, restricted hours to buy bottles to support us. That is a very strong emotional boost that we need, but it also shows that the community is gathering around,” he said. “The hope is that at the end of this not only do we emerge healthy, safe, and strong, but we actually emerge healthier, safer, and stronger for having gone through it.”