The Future of the Past..
Bad News, Followed by Great News (keep reading)
In these weird, fevered times, planning strategy for small business in the service/education sector is not just difficult; it is impossible. You don’t have to spend very much time reading the CDC’s guidelines for schools and restaurants without concluding these federal bureaucrats are simply telling educators and small business: “drop dead.” Increase restaurant aisle space from 36 inches to 72 inches? Reduce student bus population by 50%? Disinfect more but don’t disinfect around the students themselves? Keep students in “static” groups? Mrs. Smith’s students can’t interact with Mr. Morgan’s students? Prepare daily Covid updates but also encourage students and staff to “take a break” from updates? Everyone must wear a mask over 2 years old unless you are “unconscious?” (Really.)
The “Crisis” and Riley’s Farm
From time to time, someone in my hearing makes the mistake of calling this episode in American history an “inconvenience” for small business people. That’s a bit like like calling “forced starvation” a “diet.” Within the space of one week, over 35,000 pre-reserved guests were effectively prohibited from attending our programs and our revenue shrank to 2% of its normal volume. The only business we were allowed to pursue, (take out bakery food sales), provided a few family members wages, and we sent 105 full and time part time employees home.
The same sort of mind that can call this an “inconvenience,” is unfortunately also the sort of “mind” that can ask school districts to effectively double their physical classrooms and bus fleet — as though all of that could materialize by clicking a pair of ruby slippers.
The Good News
We opened our bakery windows to the public on Fridays and Saturdays and the response has been overwhelming. While we are nowhere close to our old revenue levels, the week to week growth has been very encouraging. It seems that most Americans (we have reason to believe about 95% of our customers) know that the virus is both real and deadly, BUT not the kind of threat demanding the end of life as we know it. Our customers want our field trip programs to proceed. They want our dinner programs and harvest programs to go on as they have for 30 years.
So our motto here is “old normal.” If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you want to keep your distance from other people, do so. If our staff wants to wear a mask, they are free to do so. Likewise, if you do NOT want to wear a mask or keep your distance, we consider that your choice as well. We will not insult you by putting markers on the floor or changing our seating arrangements. If it’s too crowded for you, stay home. If you like 760 acres of countryside, great food, great parties, and living history that celebrates the greatest nation on earth, spend some time with us.
We realize that some schools and groups have to make their own choices, but we will honor and re-schedule previous reservations until May of 2021; we also encourage parents who are now homeschooling or supervising their children’s distance learning to attend our programs as individuals and families. We will be putting all of our living history adventures on our calendar and booking your tickets is simple: find a date on our calendar, click on the program of your choice (Revolutionary War, Civil War, or California Gold Rush), click “Reservations” and then “Family/Individual Tickets.”
We are also excited to announce that we’re planning a “membership” level farm experience for people who want to spend more time with us. If we can come up with a financing plan, and enough of you are excited about it, we want to build cottages, glam camps, a small water attraction, long range archery, equestrian trails, and harvest skill programs with an “education vacation” focus. We want guests who love America and its Christian heritage, and who are not afraid to say so. (These days, that seems to be the vast majority of you.)
While we have no choice but to be optimistic, we also need you to know that our success, like yours, depends on America recovering its courage. We have been gutted financially, and we may not make it, but we have faith enough to give it a try.
We hope you’re with us in the fight to restore the glorious, “Old Normal.”
This post was written by Jim Riley