In just a few weeks, Wheeling Heritage will present its next round of Show of Hands. The crowd-funding event is usually held a few times a year and gives members of the community an opportunity to support developing local businesses. In order to adapt to the continuing changes brought about by COVID-19, this next installment of the event will look much different from those in the past.
Rather than being held in person, Show of Hands will be conducted in a completely virtual format. The four selected participants will film presentations that will be available for viewing during the last week of October. Viewers who make a donation of $5 or more will be able to cast their vote for the project they’d like to fund.
Like the event itself, previous Show of Hands participants are facing significant changes as a result of the pandemic. Corey Kidd, owner of Bakery 49, was the winner of the most recent in-person installment of Show of Hands, held this past January. She presented a project plan to offer “Cake and Sip” classes, where she would instruct participants on how to make and decorate their own cakes and cupcakes. Kidd received over $11,000 in funding to purchase the supplies and equipment necessary to start the project.
Shortly after Kidd’s win in January, COVID-19 changed the course for small businesses in Wheeling and all across the country. Kidd immediately took a hit to her business when social distancing guidelines were put in place in March, keeping customers from holding large gatherings like birthday parties and weddings.
“In March, it was crickets,” Kidd said. “Then, gradually, it started to pick back up, and July, August and September have been super busy with people catching up on canceled weddings.”
Since her husband was able to continue working full time during the lockdown, Kidd didn’t have to make any changes to her business in order to keep earning income. While cakes for gatherings are usually in demand on the weekends, Kidd has seen more requests come through for her services on weekdays.
“Before COVID, if your birthday was on a Wednesday, you celebrated on the weekend, Kidd said. “Now with COVID, if you’re a Wednesday birthday, you celebrate on a Wednesday regardless of your kid’s math homework!”
With wedding season starting to slow down, Kidd is able to focus on getting her “Cake and Sip” project up and running. She will not be working on cake orders so she can devote her attention to the classes.
Another local business and Show of Hands participant, Clientele Art Studio, has seen more of a change to the business. After opening his business in October 2018, owner Will Wallace presented at Show of Hands in January 2019. The studio won over $5,000 to renovate the entrance and add ADA access.
Subscribe to Weelunk
While the studio was able to complete its Show of Hands project, the lockdown orders in March put the business in a difficult position. As an event-only business, Clientele relies on the ability to have large gatherings in order to be successful, and it has not been open to the public since the spring.
“I shut down operations when the first order came down,” Wallace said. “I’ve taken this time to take time off and focus on my day job and life, but I’m planning on doing some renovations and re-opening with regular business hours.”
Wallace is optimistic that his business will recover after the pandemic. He continued, “The community support before the pandemic was phenomenal. I assume that when we re-open the support will come back – and then some, but there are no guarantees on that.”
Local restaurant owner and May 2018 Show of Hands winner Sarah Lydick has made several adaptations in order to keep her business up and running during the pandemic. Sarah’s on Main is now currently open for courtyard and socially distanced indoor dining, but when restrictions on restaurants were put in place in March, Lydick moved swiftly to find new ways to serve her customers.
While the restaurant did shorten its hours to operate more efficiently for less in-person demand, Lydick says the business still found ways to get her food into the community. She created “Saturday Dinner” meal kits and made them available for curbside pick-up. The kits contain partially prepared family-style meal components that can be heated and enjoyed at home. Sarah’s on Main also partnered with local schools to keep student lunches available while in-person classes were canceled.
In addition to changing her business, Lydick was also able to obtain help through the Payroll Protection Program offered by the Small Business Administration. Sarah’s on Main is still offering online ordering and curbside pick-up for orders.
If you would like to support the upcoming edition of Show of Hands, follow Wheeling Heritage on Facebook and Instagram to watch the contestants’ video presentations from Oct. 26 – Nov. 1. Voting will take place online at wheelingheritage.org.
• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.