SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Some Bay Area residents and business owners are having to adapt to a dramatically changing landscape after coronavirus shutdowns have torpedoed their livelihoods.
Last Tuesday, Joe and Andi Conte’s seafood delivery business, Water2Table Fish Company, was nearly sunk.
“We walked into work and we had a full crew on and we had no orders and no deliveries,” said Andi Conte. “And we knew we had to pivot and had to pivot quickly.”
For a decade, the Conte’s family business has delivered freshly-caught fish to some of San Francisco’s highest end restaurants. But then the coronavirus suddenly shut down all their customers. On Monday, San Francisco mayor London Breed had announced people needed to stay inside and no longer go to restaurants.
“It was all gone,” said Joe Conte. “We were just staring at each other Monday morning wondering what to do. And we decided to go on offense instead of defense.”
They quickly retooled their business model. Instead of restaurants, they are now delivering fish to individual people.
“When the delivery systems and the supermarkets are failing, there’s nothing more pure than getting your fish directly from fisherman and bringing it straight to people’s homes,” said Joe Conte.
The Contes say friends and community members stepped up to help keep their neighborhood business afloat.
In a Facebook post, Andi wrote, “I thought our business was done, our house was gone, and didn’t even know how I was going to provide for my boys. In less than 24 hours, we flipped our 100% restaurant only wholesale business to DTC [Direct To Consumer]. Today we had over 100 orders for home delivery and it’s all because of our amazing friends, neighbors and community. I have never felt so grateful for the people in my life who have literally gotten on the phone, reached out to their amazing networks and help save my company. Here’s to the hustlers, to the strong, to the survivors. And to the people who support them. I love you. Thank you.”
“The reason why we are standing here today, tonight, unloading local halibut that was caught today and could be delivered to your home tomorrow, is because of those people. And I am just so grateful,” Andi Conte told KPIX 5.
75 miles away in Western Sonoma County, vocalist Stella Heath is also having to change how she does business.
Heath and a fellow musician, Ian Scherer, performed a concert on Facebook Live and took requests. They appealed to their online audience to give a “virtual tip” electronically through Venmo, a mobile payment service.
“It’s really heartbreaking and terrifying,” Heath said. “Today is my first gig in a couple of weeks. I had all of my gigs canceled as of this last week which was pretty devastating. As a full time musician, that’s my entire income.”
Heath said she continues to teach music lessons and now those will also have to be through video conferencing. She’d rather be in front of a crowd. She sings at jazz clubs and has recently portrayed Billie Holiday in a stage production called the Billie Holiday Project which is now on hold, as is every musician’s livelihood.
“It’s about survival,” Heath said. “Right now, I feel okay, I’ve got a roof over my head. And if I’m very careful about how I spend money. I’ll be okay for awhile. But really now, I feel this burning need to share music. Just because we are so isolated and I think people need it more now considering the circumstances.”