Businesses Remain Resilient Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Kotsu Ramen & Gyoza is a new restaurant in San Dimas that opened in the middle of the pandemic on Jan. 18. “We love being part of San Dimas,” said Joaquin Cornejo, CEO of Kotsu Ramen & Gyoza. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

By Flora Wong

A wine shop embraces e-commerce, a restaurant reimagines takeout orders, and a trendy new eatery takes a chance on San Dimas.

Like many small businesses throughout the state, San Dimas business owners have faced difficult challenges throughout the pandemic. 

“It’s been hard for everybody in lots of different ways and at different points throughout the pandemic,” said Jennifer Baloian, co-owner of San Dimas Wine. “For us, we knew we had to immediately go online and start selling to our customers virtually.”

San Dimas Wine, located on Bonita Avenue, moved to an online business model in order to reach customers virtually during the pandemic. Photo: Isabel Ebiner

San Dimas Wine used Square, a company that provides free online e-commerce sites to small businesses to create a virtual shopping experience. 

Square for Retail launched in 2017 to assist small businesses by offering a retail point-of-sale app with technology that helps businesses track sales and manage inventory.

Baloian believes moving her business online was the right step. With the new website, customers are able to view new arrivals, browse different wines and order curbside pickup. 

Limited capacity guidelines, mask mandates, dining restrictions, and social distancing orders have forced small businesses to change how they sell products and serve their customers. 

Owner and head chef of Twisted Sage Cafe Jolyn Thompson had to implement major changes to her restaurant to meet the requirements to stay in business. 

Twisted Sage Cafe on Foothill Boulevard experienced major changes in order to meet requirements to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner and head chef Jolyn Thompson had to think creatively in order “to make to-go food as appeasing and exciting as it is to sit and have an experience here.” Photo: Isabel Ebiner

The restaurant originally seated up to 150 people, but the maximum capacity had to change to accommodate just 20. Thompson also had to downsize her staff of 35 to five. 

“We’ve had to figure out how to make to-go food as appeasing and exciting as it is to sit and have an experience here,” Thompson said.

Despite the challenges of running a business during a pandemic, there has been a rise in people filing business applications in California. In 2020, more than 436,000 applications were filed, which is a 19.9% increase from the year before, according to data from the United States Census Bureau.

Kotsu Ramen & Gyoza, a new restaurant in San Dimas, opened in the middle of the pandemic on Jan. 18. 

Joaquin Cornejo, CEO of Kotsu Ramen & Gyoza, and his business partners were interested in establishing a restaurant in San Dimas about a year before the trendy new spot even opened. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

Joaquin Cornejo, CEO of Kotsu Ramen & Gyoza, said it was not too difficult to open the business.

“Even during COVID, everything wrapped up in a couple of months; it was unusually fast,” Cornejo said. 

“We didn’t have much of a presence at first, which is fine because we want to ease into it.” 

Cornejo and his business partners discussed opening a new ramen restaurant in San Dimas for about a year before it opened. 

“The interesting thing about San Dimas is you can tell there’s a sense of community, and people are proud of San Dimas. So that’s really nice. And we love being part of San Dimas.”

Maydeen Merino contributed to this story.

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