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New MDI business owners work through challenges amid COVID-19 uncertainty

West Eden Pizza
West Eden Pizza(WABI)
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - For first-time entrepreneurs, opening that initial business can sometimes seem a little scary, but doing so during a pandemic can be especially frightening.

It was question number one this past spring when Stephen and Susanne Hopkins were deciding whether to open West Eden Pizza in Town Hill.

“Will people be here, you know with COVID? Will people be coming in?” Stephen said.

They chose to lean into that fear and are moving forward.

“We always liked the idea of opening our own place. And between the pandemic, and what we had heard about potential Bar Harbor staffing shortages, We believed that this location would be something that we could do on our own,” Susanne said.

So too is Aloha in Bar Harbor, who opened in June.

“Bar Harbor is busy, so you wouldn’t really know there’s a pandemic going on right now. We figured it was a good opportunity. If we can make a business survive during the pandemic, we should be good for the long haul,” said George Seavey, Aloha manager.

Both businesses are in the fortunate position to have learned from last year’s tourist season- the first since COVID-19 hit the United States.

They rely heavily on the takeout model, have limited indoor space and no seating inside.

Any worry that people may not come to MDI this summer was gone by mid-April.

“We saw as soon as the weather turned Bar Harbor flooded. I mean, there was a ton of people here. And so immediately, we knew that we would be doing okay,” Stephen said.

New businesses face the same pandemic hurdles that established businesses do in Bar Harbor, including dealing with staffing and supply shortages.

“It’s a challenge. We run to Portland to grab some of the products that we need when the food suppliers can’t get it for us,” Seavey said.

But they’re making it work. And for any entrepreneur, first timer or not, that’s the most important thing.

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