West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s latest executive order reacting to COVID-19 means non-essential workers need to stay home, but some small businesses are able to remain open — including an European-style bakery that sells wine and other products in the Northern Panhandle.
Good Mansion Wines has been operating in downtown Wheeling since 2006. The shop recently expanded to include a bakery and lunch deli — closed currently to dining-in — but still open seven days a week and offering curbside pickups. It imports most of its products from Europe. One of the shop’s owners, Dominick Cerrone, is concerned about healthy shopping practices amidst this pandemic as well as the region’s economic viability and diversity as we emerge from the crisis in the future.
***Editor's Note: The following has been edited for clarity and length.
Glynis Board: When did you start to be concerned with this COVID-19 pandemic situation? When did it hit your radar?
Dominick Cerrone: I think it hit my radar and our radar fairly early because of all of my family in Italy and being in touch with them and constantly being in touch with Italian media. I was very aware of how potent this virus is and what impact it could have on the economy.
And so, our shop immediately — not only did we reinforce existing hygiene policies that existed from day one, but we expanded those even further and really got out a very strict policy in our store.
Board: Outside of your own shop, what kinds of government policies do you think are critical going forward for small businesses throughout the region? Are you speaking with other businesses dealing with this crisis?
Cerrone: We've reached out to several businesses, but also probably more importantly to some of the community organizations that are kind of quasi-governmental, to encourage the population now to think hard about the impact of this virus on not only the health of the community, but the economy of community and to begin an initiative and a collective discussion about how where you're shopping today is going to impact the way your community looks after this pandemic.
This is not a short-lived pandemic. This could be a way of life for awhile. Small businesses, small restaurants, small retailers, as long as they're able to be open, and that they're deemed essential, are dependent on that cash flow. And small businesses have a lot of cash flow. If you want the economic diversity and the diversity of product in your community, you have to really ask yourself, what do you want your community to look like after this.
And if you are comfortable with just having a Kroger and a Walmart and gas stations, then go ahead and shop at those, but if you're intent on having access to a much broader selection of quality, then people really should be thinking about the economic health of the community.
I argue — without being a medical expert — that I honestly believe there are health benefits to shopping locally because you're much more able to keep your social distancing and and kind of stay healthy in smaller shops, if you can get what you're looking for it those smaller shops rather than the big box supermarkets.
So, that's not to say that if, say, somebody has to go to 10 stores to get their needs, that that might be any collectively better than just going to one store. But if you're going out and — using the instance of Good Mansion Wines — you just basically need some wine and some a couple fresh baked items and some dry goods for a dinner — whether that's pasta or rice or canned tuna, or whatever. If that can be done at a smaller shop, you should really think hard about whether — for the economic health of the community but also for social distancing — if it's a good idea to go to the large retail shop or to support a local business and be able to also keep your distance.
Board: Is there anything you want to add about Italy, about your family there, about the folks you’re working with there - any other observations?
Cerrone: I can certainly say as citizens of the world, we deal with small Italian families. They're all family businesses. These are very small enterprises with very high-quality product. If you're interested in helping out an economy that's kind of at its at its brink right now, that's another reason to consider coming in and supporting Good Mansion Wines, because of the efforts that we make to connect to those families.
It's very hard. I have family in Milan, I have family throughout [Italy]. I have family in the medical field. I have family that's a senator in Rome. Their life is very, very compromised right now. And what's most concerning is hearing what's happening there and realizing that within a mere several weeks we could be living the same kind of life.
It really makes you want to kind of, as [Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] Dr. Fauci said, go where the puck is going to be, not where it is right now.