As many dealerships across the nation have shuttered their doors and adapted operations to delivery and curbside pickup since the onset of COVID-19, some are beginning to open up for business as usual again; if not as normal, within the confines of a new normal. Powersports Business staff reporter Nick Longworth checked with a Pennsylvania dealership to see what it’s like to reopen the store.
On April 22, Mosites Motorsports of North Versailles, Pennsylvania, announced on its official Facebook page that after more than a month of being closed, it would open again to the public.
The announcement was accompanied by an informal video produced by staff providing customers with updated procedural information and instructions regarding how to offer their patronage during unprecedented times — including where, when and how to enter its shop, and how to make purchases.
“We were trying to offer appointment-based operations to keep things in the pipeline with small sales and service, but things kept progressively getting worse, as everybody knows now,” said John “JJ” Zalenchak, general manager of Mosites Motorsports for the past 14 years. The shop offers a large selection of powersports brands and is a “jack of all trades” for sales and service in its community. “It really felt like things were changing every day. With different guidelines and news and announcements, it started to get pretty intense. You could see it in employees’ eyes. We got together with our management team and owner. We talked about it and decided to fully shut down.”
As one of the stricter states mandating business restrictions across the nation, Gov. Tom Wolf all but halted business entirely for the shop — ceasing both online and in-person sales altogether. Per the governor’s request, Mosites closed its business to the public on Monday, March 20.
With staff furloughed, only a skeleton crew remained to facilitate operational necessities, such as answering inquires. Left in limbo, staff prepared for an uncertain future, on an undefined timeline.
“The calls and emails never slowed down for us, people kept reaching out. There were always leads popping in. We all answered leads on our own, some people from home,” said Zalenchak.
On March 30, official state guidelines reclassified Mosites as an essential business, allowing them to begin offering parts and service. At that point, technicians were rehired while doors still remained closed to the public. It was the beginning of a reopening transition after weeks of lost business that would culminate in the Facebook video announcement.
“Every state around us was allowed to online sell, but Pennsylvania wasn’t. We were losing business to surrounding states for weeks. We started turning out the work we already had in the shop, which we had for weeks at that point and felt an obligation to get back out the door for the customer — or at least get working on it,” said Zalenchak. “Along with that we were getting the store cleaned and prepared for whatever an opening would look like whenever it happened down the road — we cleaned the offices, cleaned everywhere customers touch, wiped down every counter, basically rearranging and deep-cleaning everything throughout the dealership. It was the best time to do it given that no one was in there.”
Being proactive about precaution, Zalenchak said Mosites also installed Plexiglas counters, has marked social distancing lines on its floor and placed cleaning stations periodically throughout the showroom — precautions that are now common throughout retail environments across the nation.
“We went down every guideline we could find and just started checking off lists,” Zalenchak said.
On April 6, a “soft opening” was announced with the expansion of curbside parts pickup, and in the following weeks it was announced on April 21 that virtual sales would be permitted as well. The “full” reopening was a long time coming for many.
“We were already prepared for that [announcement]. We already had our e-notarization application and approval, and were already set-up with the online platform. We’ve been following and preparing this entire time — as soon as we got the ‘green light’ we were ready to go,” said Zalenchak.
While new temporary restrictions such as the requirement that patrons wear masks (and be provided onsite if need be), as well as capacity and distancing limits remain in place and can be cumbersome, other adaptations presented by the coronavirus might have offered a glimpse at future opportunities.
“I like the virtual end to selling — that might stick,” said Zalenchak.
Mosites remains optimistic it will come out of the pandemic stronger than ever in a post-COVID industry, saying in its announcement video, “Calm seas never made for a skilled sailor.”
“We’re continually adapting to the new rules and regulations that come out. This is going to stick around for a while. Eventually we’re all going to be back to normal, but I don’t see this going away for another couple months,” said Zalenchak. “I’m not sure what the future holds for us, but we’ll prepare, adapt and overcome.”