From fitness to food, Roswell small businesses find new ways to connect to customers

Gruvn Yoga studio goes digital,  RO Hospitality launches Table & Aid effort, Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee will ship coffee shop experience to you

Last summer, Heather Peace left her 20-year corporate career at Kimberly-Clark — the corporation that produces toilet paper, among other products — to pursue her dream of opening a yoga studio.

Less than a month after the soft opening of Gruvn Yoga, a couple miles from downtown Roswell, a global pandemic reached Georgia.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Once again, Peace was tasked with reinventing herself. Like small business owners throughout the metro area and across the country, Peace has had to quickly figure out what it means to take a business usually dependent on people gathering in person and bring it digitally to their homes.

But, Peace spent decades dreaming of the moment she would own her own business and she’s not going to let this stop her.

“My whole business plan, telling myself ‘OK, I need this many memberships’ — that's all kind of been thrown on this ear,” Peace says of the plans she had her business, still in its infancy.

“At this point, I just want to make sure that people out there who need yoga can get accessibly and it's not too expensive. And, I'll get through this. I just keep telling myself, this is temporary.”

In the meantime, Peace — still relatively new to teaching yoga — is streaming classes for people to take at home. Through the new virtual paid model, folks can take Gruvn classes for $10 a pop or for $30 they can buy a one month unlimited membership.

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She’s also expanding her offerings to meet the moment with things like kids yoga on Wednesdays and a new class that features a chance for people just to talk and socialize before diving into the practice  — the way you would at an in-person studio.

She also hopes to add some chair yoga and other ways to engage people who may have limited mobility.

Peace was originally motivated to open her studio because she wanted to serve her community and, even in a pandemic, that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed.

Credit: Courtesy of Gruvn Yoga

Credit: Courtesy of Gruvn Yoga

Pivot, pivot, pivot

That sense of resolve to adapt and persevere is perhaps more present in the restaurant world than anywhere else right now — at least in Ryan Pernice’s kitchen.

Pernice is the owner of RO Hospitality, which started with Table & Main in 2011 in Roswell and has since expanded with Osteria Mattone and Coalition Food and Beverage.

At the beginning of last month, Pernice had 120 employees. Now, his staff is a third of that size and operations have been concentrated to  Osteria Mattone, 1095 Canton St., Roswell, where they have changed the sit-down restaurant into a to-go setup.

To say its been a challenge would be sugar coating it, but Pernice has worked in restaurants since he was 14. The demand to pivot and wear multiple hats at any given moment is what he loves about this work and it’s what he’s learning to do all over again.

“I've always liked the kind of cockpit mentality of restaurants. And you know, on a busy Saturday night, to say nothing of being in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, you've got to be able to click on all these fronts,” he said.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

While the initial community support of the new to-go model has been strong, Pernice said he wonders what it will start to look like as people become more settled in the “new normal.”

As people adjust, so is he. And for Pernice, part of pivoting means making sure he’s doing his part to help people who are out of work. They launched “Table & Aid” for people who are food insecure, which now includes a lot of food service workers. From noon-4 p.m. on Tuesdays-Sundays, they are offering free meals to those in need, no questions asked.

Pernice knows there are a lot of places that need support right now, but he hopes that his restaurant will become part of people’s takeout rotation. For folks who want to help, placing to-go orders or buying gift cards helps. The restaurant is also accepting donations to the Table & Aid program.

“I think that we're all trying to pivot our business model to last as long as we can,” he said. “While we hope to gain some sense of what's coming next, I don't think this is gonna snap back to any thing approaching what normal looks like anytime soon.”

Finding ways to connect

That sense of upheaval is present across small businesses. For 14 years, Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company has operated across metro Atlanta, including its Roswell location, but “these weeks have been some of the most stressful,” owner Jonathan Golden said.

Slowly, Golden made the decision to temporarily shutter his stores.

“We love serving our community but after thought and prayer realized the responsible thing for all was to close our remaining three stores,” he said in an email.

But still, he’s finding ways to stay connected with his customers.

Their roastery remains open and folks can buy coffee online to bring the feel of the shop to their own home.

After all, Golden says it’s time like these that ties people together.

“Small business exist to serve their communities,” Golden said. “True community happens when we help and serve each other during our times of need.”