Pandemic forces entrepreneurs to face a dilemma: Keep doors open, or move online?

Empty office space where Jenkintown firm SEO Locale once operated.
Photo credit Nick Quirk/SEO Locale

UPDATED: Aug. 28, 11:30 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  The coronavirus pandemic has forced hundreds of businesses in the Philadelphia area to close permanently. And now some business owners are choosing to let go of their brick-and-mortar locations in an effort to survive. 

Nick Quirk, co-owner of Jenkintown-based digital marketing company SEO Locale, says they are responding to the uncertainty by finding cheaper ways to provide services.

Entrepreneurs who are shut down or forced to work at reduced capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions face a dilemma.

“Do we just go virtual completely, or do we do the shared co-working space,” Quirk said. 

The company provides free digital assessments to small businesses trying to grow their online presence. Quirk says they saw a 40% decrease in business when the pandemic hit. 

They kept their employees on, with everyone working from home to serve their clients virtually. And now that business is back up, their office remains empty to keep people safe — but the hefty rent payment is still due.

"I’m noticing commercial corridors with lots of vacancies, offices that are not open any more,” Allen said. 

He says, as the pandemic continues, more and more business owners will have to make a decision.

“There might have been people saying, 'Do I renew for another five years?' But they may say, 'No, I’m done,'" he said. "They may decide to go virtual and work from their basement. Things are just so uncertain."

“It made sense for us to get a smaller thumbprint and lean into being virtual,” Mincey said, noting that most of his clients and employees used public transportation to come to the office.

“We want to protect the people we care about by not putting them at risk. Plus, I think our clients are getting more used to accepting legal services virtually.”

Mincey and Quirk say they believe they are starting a trend.

Still, she beefed up her website and put all of her inventory online in a virtual boutique.

"Going totally virtual is an option," she said. "I am not ready yet, but if we get shut down again, I am prepared."

The changes will come with nostalgia. Both Quick and Mincey say they were proud of their brick-and-mortar spaces, but they say they'll be even more proud to see more small businesses survive.