By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(March 26, 2020) With all but businesses and services classified as essential closed, residents and groups in small towns like Berlin are doing what they can to help.
Kathryn Gordon, director for Worcester County Economic Development, praised the Berlin Chamber of Commerce for its connection with the local businesses.
“The town of Berlin has an incredible support system with the Berlin Chamber of Commerce as well as Berlin Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells,” Gordon said.
This could be said for the entire county, she added.
“I have seen an incredible response from not only the county and towns, but the community as a whole,” Gordon said. “Residents of Worcester County have stepped up to the plate in promoting our small businesses through social media platforms.
For many businesses such as On What Grounds? coffee shop has had to survive on carryout and delivery services. However, some residents have offered to do more to help the local coffee shop.
“We’ve had a few people come in and get gift cards,” owner Dana Gottloeb said. “We had a local insurance fellow who came in and bought $100 worth of gift cards to pass out, which we’ve been handing out to folks to use the next time they come in.
“I feel like 90-95 percent of the people who come in have been locals just wanting to try to help and support, plus take care of their normal habits,” Gottloeb said.
Main Street Deli on South Main Street, meanwhile, has been offering supplies for others.
“We’re going to start carrying milk and eggs here … the food stores don’t have it so that will help [the residents,]” owner David Koontz said. “We’ve also been providing carryout to Atlantic General Hospital and doctors’ offices to keep them from coming into the town.”
For others like Victorian Charm, there has been a greater reliance on the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and customers.
“It’s a little harder since retail is not technically considered a central store,” store manager Melissa Stover said. “I would just say thank you to my customers that have still come in and tried to help out by buying birthday presents and things for their kids to do while they’re stuck at home.”
Just a little outside of Berlin, on 11206 Worcester Hwy, Windmill Creek Winery has decided to offer parcels of land for the public to use to grow fruits and vegetables for free.
“My grandparents, Ed and Gertrude Mariner, they definitely knew what to do during the Great Depression because they had the farm area,” Barry Mariner said.
In the beginning, Mariner did not immediately take the situation too seriously, but once he understood how bad coronavirus has become, he began looking for ways to help the community. He came up with the idea of loaning parts of the family farm while he was maintaining it.
“I’m out there [in the fields] working … I’m cutting down the grass and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, how are we gonna make money,’” Mariner said. “I got off the tractor and I was thinking, ‘This is a good idea.’ And I feel like it was the right thing to help people.”
The Mariners will be offering 10 by 20-foot plots of land for people to grow produce. Currently, 47 lots already committed for use. The Mariners will till and maintain the plants and only ask for a small portion of the crops to be used for their food truck in return.
Some of the seeds are expected to come from nearby greenhouse and nursery Bluebird Farms
The farm expects to begin plowing the fields for use mid-April, after the chance of frost is gone. More than that, even though liquor stores are still open, the Mariners have received orders to help support their winery business.
“People are coming and buying the case, which helping us a lot,” Jeanie Mariner said. “We know it’s not cheap and we know they could just as easily go down to the liquor store to the corner market or the gas station and buy a bottle of wine, but they’re buying it from us because they want to help us.”