LEWISBURG — Tables and chairs sat empty, board games remained stacked on a shelf. 

A few workers at Jackass Brewing Company busied themselves on Wednesday preparing takeout orders, as co-owner Larry Winans and general manager Sara Robinson Erdley assembled Adirondack chairs out on the patio to place around the outdoor fire pit.

A week after the Lewisburg brewery’s official opening, Winans and co-owner Skip Kratzer were into the second full day under Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to shutter all non-essential businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic threat. That shutdown includes bars and dining-in services.

The brewery is among several recently opened Valley businesses that suddenly are struggling to survive with limited or no business. 

“It’s a bad time,” Winans said. “We had five really good days. The community seemed to be really happy. One of the reasons we built this is to bring the community together.”

He said they anticipated the shutdown and decided to do beer and food takeout sales in the parking lot. A table is set up near one of the doors facing the lot for customers to pick up their orders.

That is all they have to keep the business running for now, without knowing when they will be able to invite customers in for food and drink.

“We’re trying to keep our team members employed,” Winans said. “It is difficult.”

The 18 employees were all full-time. Now the owners are just trying to keep them working. The partners also have a lot of capital invested in the property, structure and equipment that’s on the line.

“The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be, but it forces us to be creative in what we do,” he said.

It has helped that the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail is behind the business. People walking the trail have stopped to order beer and sandwiches.

Mike Espinosa, who stopped for a pickup order with his daughter, Baylee, 11, said the restrictions due to the pandemic have changed routines. The Lewisburg Area High School English teacher said he had just had a teleconference with co-workers on Zoom.

“This has made us count our blessings,” he said.

‘We can’t stop now’  

William Penn Cabinetry owner Maurice Brubaker is forging ahead with starting the Freeburg-based company from scratch amid the worldwide pandemic.

“It is a concern, but I’ve got the right people,” he said of veteran Wood-Mode Inc. employees Doug Lauver and Bud Tittle, who are in charge of building the new custom cabinet manufacturing company from the ground up.

For several weeks they’ve been cleaning out the 85,000-square-foot plant occupied by the former Colonial Furniture Company and ordering equipment. Last week, the company received a router and will get more tooling equipment at the plant where production could begin as early as April, Lauver said.

“We’re not in it huge, but we’re in it big,” he said of the investment that has been made to start the new business. “We can’t stop now.”

The company has five employees and will add more once the production starts.

“The market we are dealing with has been strong, but that could stop tomorrow,” Lauver said.

Just getting started

Yvonne Sites just opened her Mamamac’s restaurant in Sunbury two months ago and was just starting to build up her business.

“I was getting a great clientele in a short time,” she said on Thursday. “I got to know so many customers.”

With the shutdown slowing business, though, she was starting to have regrets about leaving her full-time job as an administrator at a home care agency. Sites, who had a restaurant in Shamokin that she closed when she moved to Sunbury, fears she might have to close this week, leaving her two employees without work.

“I’ve never lived through anything like this,” Sites said.  

In Danville, PB&J Bar is doing OK, said Christian Force, who co-owns the vegan restaurant and juice bar with his fiancee, Shannon Koch.

“We’re still allowed to do takeouts,” he said. “That’s a breath of fresh air. We’re surviving on takeout, and customers are happy takeout is available.”

Force said the business, which opened March 1, has adapted to the governor’s restriction by offering some dinner options for patrons, such as a full lasagna pan.

Force and Koch have had to lay off their five part-time employees while retaining their three full-timers, though.

“We’re trying be positive,” Force said. “We understand the reason for it.”

He said the Danville community has been supportive to local businesses.

Rebecca Dressler, Danvlle Business Alliance executive director, reported the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering help to businesses and employers in the form of guidance and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides small businesses with loans of up to $2 million to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue due to the pandemic.

Staff reporter Marcia Moore contributed to this story. 

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