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Dayton small-business owners in conversation with each other, sharing their experiences, hopes and fears about running a small business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bouncing Back: Edible Arrangements

Chad Diggs with his business partner.
courtesy of Chad Diggs
Chad Diggs with his business partner.

After a successful Fortune 500 sales career, Chad Diggs took the leap to entrepreneurship and became his own boss. Now, he owns a number of Miami Valley businesses. All saw a steep drop in sales as the pandemic took hold in 2020. But one business has since rebounded bigger than ever. It’s an online gift-basket business called Edible Arrangements in Kettering.

Diggs is a Trotwood native and University of Toledo college football athlete who says the rollercoaster of the pandemic is testing his leadership skills like never before. He recalls last March when COVID-19 cases were rising and the streets were emptying out, prompting a difficult conversation with his business partner.

Transcript (lightly edited for length and clarity):

Chad Diggs: We had to talk to see if we were going to close Edible until post-pandemic or close it for a few months. In April, things just started to change. And then come Mother's Day we broke the Mother's Day record for the store -- all-time. But then we beat Valentine's Day, which is something Mother's Day never does. And then after that, it's just exploded.

Wednesday, today, pre-pandemic would be about 20 orders. Right at the start of the pandemic it was about 10 to 12. Today, we have over 50 orders. I mean, we were in the right place at the right time. Every occasion that you used to be able to do in person has kind of turned into, send over Edible Arrangement items for birthdays, a box of chocolate-covered strawberries just to let you know I still care, I'm still thinking about you in this time where we're not able to gather.

The scariest part for us was, I tell you, June, July, August, September, October and even November, the cost of goods went up. Gloves that we were getting for $5, $6 a box were now $15 a box. Masks were required, which we were fully supportive of, but we didn't know where to get them from. I mean, they just flew off the shelves and they weren't there. Where is hand sanitizer at, Clorox wipes and Lysol spray? Here goes another one: helium. For a second there we struggled with getting helium, and a lot of what we offer are balloons. People send balloons with the arrangements. And the world has a worldwide helium shortage. So the pandemic only made it worse because a lot of that helium, as it should have been, was redirected to hospitals.

Everything became extremely difficult to find. It was all these extra expenses that you didn't expect to come along with the increase of revenue. I cancelled my salary. No matter how much money Edible made, we decided we weren't going to take any home because we had to put our team first. And I think our employees saw that.

How do you tell a single mother you want her to work, you want to give her all the hours, but there's no one at home watching her kids, or she has to find a babysitter that she may have to pay more for than working? Then, how does she provide for her family? It became extremely rough. You had to have some more personal conversations with your team than you ever thought that you would.

It just was a lot. But I hope we take the year of 2020 as a lesson learned. As Americans we still have to learn, and I hope that this taught us, the importance of time and the importance of time with each other. So, I hope that as people that have actually caught COVID-19 or people get the vaccination and we get past the pandemic, I think it'll make us cherish some time with our friends that we didn't really get to have and some family members. Go see your grandparents. There are people that have parents and grandparents in nursing homes that they couldn't access. I mean, that's heart wrenching.

It has to be a lesson learned. If you learn nothing politically, if you learn nothing personally, if you learn nothing socially, then you've completely missed out.

Bouncing Back was produced by Jess Mador, at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO, in collaboration with Audrey Ingram at Launch Dayton, a network supporting entrepreneurs across the Dayton region.

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.