Amid pandemic, Raleighites look to the future

We asked Raleigh business owners, people-focused professionals + community leaders: What is on the other side of our COVID-19 reality?

Raleigh photographer Keenan Hairston captured portraits of people whose everyday realities changed in the last year.

We asked two questions: What does recovery look like? And what are your hopes for the future?

What we found…. Health and safety is paramount now, but there is potential for a better Raleigh on the other side of this pandemic.¬†

Read on to see and hear from these Raleighites. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Angela Salamanca, Centro and Gallo Pelón

What does recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic look like for your business?
 
Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic-forced shut down will not be easy for any small business. If we can get to a place where we can meet our pre-COVID financial responsibilities, we will be able to survive.
 
We will never recover what was lost during COVID. We are still in it.
 
These days we are basically operating to keep our staff employed and to pay our bills, but it does not include rent, loans, maintenance, profits.
 
We have run through our savings and the money the government gave us in the summer.

What are your hopes for 2021, for your business and for the Raleigh community?

My initial hope for 2021 is that we will be able to resume some sort of normalcy, which for us means being able to resume being productive members of our community.

Being able to open for dining in service without the ever present fear of a possible Covid Exposure or an infection.

To be able to meet our pre-Covid financial responsibilities with ease, increase our staff and become profitable.

But more than that, my hope is that once it is safe to open and resume hospitality as we know it, that we will be able to continue to pay our staff living wage and that the community will support the changes many in the industry are committed to making.

That is a HUGE unknown for me.

In pre-Covid times, our industry was highly undervalued and oversaturated.

The shutdown proved how tight of a rope many small businesses walked day to day to just make things work. The mental, and physical toll that kind of existence has proven to be too high a price to pay. So we will do our best to come back better, and have faith that the community will meet us there.

Angela Salamanca is chef and owner of Centro restaurant and mezcal bar Gallo Pelón in Downtown Raleigh.

Quentin Todd, Fades Barber Shop

What does recovery look like for your business?

As things start to open back up, safety and sanitation is imperative. … Business is starting to get back to normal, especially coming off of the busy holiday season as people prepped for their family photos and gatherings. We enjoy all of the love that is shown to us through these uncertain times and in return we not only want to make you look good but we want to make sure that you‚Äôre¬† remaining healthy and safe in the process.

What are your hopes for 2021, for your barbershop, and for the Raleigh community?

My hopes for 2021 is that we, first, work together to fully recover from this pandemic so that  people can get back to moving around freely like before.

Our barbershop is still fairly new to the downtown area so we’ll continue to create awareness of our location and services throughout the city. We’re also putting together plans to connect and give back to the  people in community so that we can continue to grow, support, spread love in the Raleigh area.

Quentin Todd grew up in Raleigh. He’s a highly requested barber at Fades Barber Shop, specializing in clean fades and crisp edges. Find him on Instagram @quentintodd2

Ashley Liu Kirkman, Ride Run Raleigh

What does recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic look like for Ride Run Raleigh?

Recovery for Ride + Run Raleigh means getting back into a sweaty and loud studio where we can experience the magic of group fitness again.  

Virtual fitness has been a game changer and lifeline for many of us to stay connected and moving through the pandemic, but there’s nothing that matches the energy and community of a face-to-face endorphin rush.¬† That experience and connection can never be replaced.¬†¬†¬†
 

What are your hopes for 2021, for Ride Run Raleigh and for the Greater Raleigh community?

My overarching hope for 2021 is that we all experience some level of stability and peace. Last year was so full of uncertainty, hardship, tragedy and turmoil we’ve all earned the right to move on.

For Ride + Run Raleigh, I would love to see all of our instructors and clients back to in-person fitness.

Many are worried that the convenience of virtual fitness will forever threaten live instruction but I think we are going to be ok.

Group fitness creates a sense of community and is an experience to which nothing else can compare. You get a bonus family — your #fitfam — and the feeling of walking into a space with whatever is weighing you down, spending 45 minutes to an hour getting lost in music and movement and walking out with a euphoric sense of accomplishment and release is completely addictive and so rewarding.

Ride + Run Raleigh’s logo contains the image of a phoenix for good reason.

For the Greater Raleigh community my hope is for normalcy and prosperity. We may never know when or how but after this collective fall we will all rise again and I can’t wait.

Ashley is the Co-Founder of Ride + Run Raleigh and a coach at FlowCORPS.¬†¬† She was also the Co-Founder of Raleigh Group Fitness and an instructor at Flywheel Sports.¬† In her ‚Äúfree time‚ÄĚ Ashley works full-time as a corporate attorney and is a mother to two sweet girls.

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CAM Raleigh

What does recovery look like for CAM Raleigh?

I envision our recovery at CAM being all about our visitors! Welcoming them back to the museum with new artists, exhibitions, and public programming that are dynamic and engaging. –Eric Gaard, Interim Director, Exhibitions Director, pictured with Tamar Harris Warren, Development and Operations.¬†

What are your hopes for 2021, for CAM Raleigh and for
the Raleigh community?

My hope for 2021 and beyond is for CAM Raleigh to continue its evolution as a creative entity in the communities of Raleigh, the State of North Carolina, and our country. We are small but mighty in our commitment to artists and visitors coming from differing backgrounds and approaches to Contemporary Art and our efforts to engage them will be equally diverse as well. I’m looking forward to the future!

CAM Raleigh is a contemporary art museum in Downtown Raleigh. 

Mel Wright, The Wright Village

What does recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic look like for The Wright Village?

We were crazy enough to open DURING the pandemic! We realize many have suffered and are entering a period in their business where recovery is beginning. However, we’ve been lucky enough to experience slow growth during the pandemic. We continue to do our research, market ourselves accordingly, and plan for the swarm of business owners that will come through our doors in the near future.

What are your hopes for 2021, for The Wright Village and for the Greater Raleigh community?

Our hope for 2021 is steady growth. With the rise of entrepreneurs and small businesses starting up, The Wright Village is looking forward to being a business incubator with the resources needed for others to be successful. With everything happening virtually now, from school to board meetings, we want Raleigh to know they don’t have to go it alone. We want to build a strong village within the Greater Raleigh community, of like-minded individuals looking to build their businesses. We believe it takes a village, ‚ÄúThe Wright Village.‚ÄĚ

Mel Wright is owner of The Wright Village, a co-working community and office solutions business in Raleigh. 

Jess Porta, Raleigh Founded

What does recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic look like for Raleigh Founded?
 
Because we are an entrepreneurial community of over 400 companies, it wasn’t just our company that was hurting, it was nearly every company in our community. So to us, recovery looks a bit different.
 
Of course we want to refill our spaces and see our business return to normal, but more importantly, we want to see the companies (who it is our mission to support) come back stronger than ever. We want to see companies within our space recover customers and ultimately recover any lost revenue.
 
To do this we will have to continue to offer support by connecting companies to federal, state and local programs as well as the resources within our own community.
 
I think it will be another 6 months before we see more people return to traditional office environments, but even then, this pandemic has changed the way we live and work and we predict that many companies will return with a hybrid remote model where they keep a small office at a coworking space and give their employees flexibility to work remotely and in person. We are ready for that change. 
 
What are your hopes for 2021, for Raleigh Founded and for the Greater Raleigh community?
 
I do not want to go back to normal. Normal was not a place that was supportive and inclusive for everyone.
 
My hopes for our community are that we can take lessons from this time period and grow and change in a meaningful way that is more inclusive and does a better job of lifting everyone up in our community. I also hope that companies who have pivoted and innovated during this time period are rewarded with continued success and those who did not, are able to get back on their feet and adapt.
 
We are here to support startups and small businesses in our community. It has always been our mission to foster inclusive innovation and we hope to take that to a new level in 2021 with some of our new programming.
 
Jess Porta is the executive director of Raleigh Founded. 
Photographer Keenan Hairston is originally from Baltimore and a graduate of NC State. Keenan is a freelance photographer of 6 years in Raleigh. Elsewhere, he’s shot photos for Coachella, Lollapalooza and NBA All-Star Weekend, published by USA Today, Forbes and Yahoo and various other outlets. Follow him on Instagram @keenanhairston

This project was made possible in part by the COVID-19 Local News Fund. Continue to sustain Raleigh Convergence and projects like this by becoming a member! 

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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