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Certain businesses faring well during pandemic

Joe Sofo wasn’t sure what to expect from a business standpoint when the coronavirus pandemic hit hard over a month ago, but the results have been pleasantly surprising.

Sofo Foods, which supplies ingredients to restaurants and fast food joints and operates a retail store on Monroe Street, is one of the local businesses faring well in the midst of the crisis that has shut down everything deemed non-essential. Sales were down between 20 percent and 25 percent for a couple weeks in March, but business is now booming.

“Now it’s spiked up well above and beyond normal averages,” said Mr. Sofo, who owns the business. “We reinvented ourselves when we had that 20 percent cutback.We learned how to become more efficient. We corrected a lot of bad habits we created over 70 years.”

Sofo supplies ingredients for national chains such as Marco’s Pizza and Jet’s Pizza, and said sales are up 25 percent in the pizza and sandwich segment. He also supplies to Wayback Burgers based out of Connecticut, and said they are “just cranking it out.”

Money from the stimulus bill started to hit bank accounts last week, which Mr. Sofo believes contributed to another spike in customers supporting local eateries.

“You can’t imagine what that’s done for all fast food,” he said. “The pizza people are booming; their numbers are astonishing. Once these checks got out, people were treating themselves to pizza. And the retail stores couldn’t keep up in the first two weeks — including mine. Once they realized they could support local, they got out.”

Sofo Foods operates distribution centers in Toledo, Atlanta, Houston, and Louisville, Ky. Mr. Sofo said his company worked with fine dining restaurants to better accommodate customers looking for carryout options.

“The Mancy’s group has done a great job, just the steakhouse alone,” Mr. Sofo said. “Could you ever believe you could pick up a nice steak dinner?”

Maumee-based Spartan Chemical is also seeing increased sales and demand for products. The company adjusted production practices to make as many products as possible designed to keep frontline workers safe.

“There’s been a tremendous surge and it continues,” President John Swigart said. “Of the products specific to helping our people in healthcare and cleaning those facilities, those products continue to surge and I don’t expect that to change until we get some sort of treatment for this virus or a vaccine.”

Spartan makes products for institutional use and utilizes a network of distribution around the world to supply hospitals, long-term care, and other healthcare-related facilities. Mr. Swigart said demand for products has been so high the company added weekend shifts and is working around the clock seven days a week.

Demand has sky-rocketed for hand sanitizer, hard surface disinfectant, and wipes.

“The biggest challenge has been the supply chain,” Mr. Swigart said. “Certain raw materials and components simply cannot keep up. There is such demand for disinfectants, soap, hand sanitizer — specifically the ones with the COVID-19 claim.”

Business is picking up for Spartan, but Mr. Swigart’s biggest concern remains the health and safety of his employees. Office staff are working remotely and the 150 employees who still come to work each day are checked daily for symptoms.

“We’ve hired five nurses and set up nursing stations in our garage,” Mr. Swigart said. “It’s drive-through so they’re getting temp checks every day and a series of questions. We have not had an issue to date. We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff healthy.”

Mr. Sofo said his retail store implemented safety measures even before Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines were released. Of his 590 Toledo employees, about 50 are older than 60. He prioritized having them work remotely.

“We figured out we could do things leaner and more efficient with people working from home and keeping them safe,” Mr. Sofo said. “I’m really proud of our HR department. They jumped in and we were ahead of even the governor with gloves and sanitizing every cart and basket after every use. Full-time masks for all employees. We were temping before anyone else.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on April 26, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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