As we edge closer to the end of the month, there are signs of re-birth, but accompanied by new protocols and in some cases new restrictions.

The Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce has re-opened its doors to the public. We are asking that all visitors have masks, and there is a new entry bell system that allows for one person or family unit to enter at one time, so we can manage social distancing at its maximum.

As well as the chamber offices, we also act as receptionist for the executive suites that are behind our offices, so we have worked with those business owners to ensure access to their offices, while maintaining a safe distance between visiting guests. Our offices are currently open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday to Friday, but we are available 24/7 at www.puntagordachamber.com or by calling 941-639-3720 and leaving a message which will be returned by the latest the next business day. We are confident that things will continue to evolve and change! It is our hope to be able to return to regular hours in the coming weeks.

We fully concur with the protocols currently being enforced and encourage people to “shop local.” Visit our site to review the Business Directory, where you will find our members’ details, along with their contact information. It is clear that, although encouraging, our restaurant community cannot survive for long at 25% occupancy. Even 50% is lower than the industry norm of 85%, which is the usual benchmark for survival/profitability. The clear priority is to stay healthy and protect as many people as possible from contamination. We may look a little odd, and we may not always recognize those we meet in the grocery store, but wearing masks and hand sanitation is the new norm.

As a chamber of huggers, it’s hard for us all, but we have found a new form of togetherness and strength as we have fought this fight together. Leading this organization through these past months has been stressful and oftentimes painful, as people in both the commercial and residential fields have reached out for much-needed assistance.

This week, in conjunction with Joanne Cuminsky of VisionQuest Leadership (Business Consultants), we are launching today a series of five free 25-minute webinars, that will help guide small businesses through the new thinking process of what to focus on during this time of crisis. After each session, there will be time for group or individual Q&A. To sign up for these free webinars, which will take place at 4 p.m. today and Thursday, and then again at 4 p.m. on future Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 941-639-3720 and we’ll send you log in instructions. You will need to have the Zoom app on your desktop or mobile device.

The Saturday and Sunday farmers’ markets are back: Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon at the corner of Olympia and Taylor in downtown Punta Gorda; and Sunday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. in the History Park on Shreve Street. Both have new protocols for visitors and vendors in order to ensure the maximum protection in these difficult times. Please wear a mask and observe the social-distancing protocols, which allow for two people under a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent at one time. It does feel kinda good to have them both back, don’t you think?

Our Citywide Garage Sale will return from 8 a.m.-noon June 13 in the parking lot of Comfort Storage located at 3811 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda. We shall be distancing the vendors to have a 6-foot gap between each one and we are asking all attendees to wear masks. To register, please call us on 941-639-3720. The cost is $15 for two spaces: one for your vehicle and one for your tables. Pre-registration is required.

Just like any small business right now, the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce has bills to pay. We are incredibly grateful to the following businesses who renewed their membership recently. This allows us to continue our work, advocating for our membership and communicating to the business community as much valuable information that we can find. Every contribution, no matter how small, is valued and appreciated as we strive to keep our family united. Together we shall get through this: Debra Gurin (Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co), Alder Terrace Adult Care Center, B&B Telephone Systems, Nancy Bell (Realtor with Coldwell Banker Sunstar Realty), Dorothy Strunk (individual), Punta Gorda Rent All and Helgemo Team at Compass.

You are all heroes to us this week. Thank you for being a valued member.

John R. Wright is President of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce jrwright@puntagorda-chamber.com. Charlotte Sun is a proud Platinum sponsor of this Chamber.

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