Monday, December 11, 2023

Here’s how family-owned small businesses are coping during the coronavirus

As small business try to survive the coronavirus pandemic, some are looking to loans to help. (WYDaily/Courtesy Kacie Celli)
As small business try to survive the coronavirus pandemic, some are looking to loans to help. (WYDaily/Courtesy Kacie Celli)

When Gina Celli started her chocolate chip cookie company in Williamsburg a year ago, she never predicted a pandemic would change the way she operates.

Celli’s Chocolate Chips is a local cookie business run by Gina and her family. Gina wakes up early each morning and starts preparing batches of varieties of cookies, but now she only makes what’s been ordered.

“Our type of business is very celebratory in these weird times,” she said. “People are happy to send joy to someone so that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Gina’s daughter, Kacie Celli, said for the most part their business has been busy. People have adapted to a new system where they place the order and pick up their cookies in the outside lobby. 

Kacie said recipes are being made in smaller batches, which means people can’t come into the store and pick out their cookies from a selection. 

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“For us, thank God it’s business as usual,” she said. “It’s bringing joy and normalcy in these unprecedented times. It’s crazy right now but I think if we can help people not think about it for a little bit, even if that’s just by eating a cookie, then we’re providing a bright spot.”

The business is still bringing in enough revenue to pay their rent and keep the cookies baking. That’s why, Gina said, they haven’t considered applying for the small business loans yet.

“I don’t think that’s an avenue we need to go down at this point,” Gina said. “I think we’re a bit different because we’re family owned and operated, so I don’t have a huge payroll and employees to lay off.”

Many businesses across the country are suffering and looking to federal and state governments for help. In the past month, the federal government has been unrolling small business loans to help businesses continue during this time of hardship. 

But on Thursday, the $349 billion emergency small business lending program ran out of money, according to the Small Business Administration’s website.

And as government officials decide to move forward, small businesses in the area have to find ways to keep their lights on.

“We wake up everyday and I really try to pretend that things are the same,” Gina said. “Just go in with the mentality to bake and try not to think about how different the world is.”

Charlie Messina, owner of Little Charlie’s Pizza and Doraldo’s Ristorante Italiano, said he has not laid any of his staff due to the coronavirus.

”The only way we are going to make it together is to do whatever we need to do to survive this,” Messina told his staff at Doraldo’s.

Messina said his wait staff at the restaurant are doing deliveries and his pizza shop continues to offer pick-up orders.

Both businesses are open during their regular hours.

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“It’s working out, we could use all the support that we can,” he said. “We do anything we need to do to stay afloat”

Messina applied for a payroll loan last week and he has not received an update as of Friday. While he still has bills to pay, in the meantime, he takes money out of his pocket to match his employee’s pay.

“It’s hard for me to send my staff home,” he said. “I’ve got staff that has been with me for 13, 14 years.”

“We are very grateful for our customers,” Messina added. “We have no words to express the support for our business.”


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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