Hope is a Superpower and a Smile is an Act of Bravery

I knew something was up last Thursday when orders started rolling in by (almost all) familiar names. You see, Monday the 16th of March we closed our tasting rooms due to the restrictions mandated by Governor Cuomo. On that same day, we laid off all of our retail staff. It was a devastating day for our team. One by one I sat down with our tasting room managers and told them that we needed to lay them off for an unknown period of time. Collectively, that day I laid off decades of experience… people who have been with us since the beginning. It was heartbreaking.

But, I knew something was up last Thursday. In our new normal, myself and GM, Gabby are the ones taking orders for curbside pick-up and shipping. The orders on that Thursday were from a lot of staff and people using the friends and family discount code. I texted Cassie, one of our laid off managers and asked her, “What are you up to? I see orders coming in today that say you’re picking them up”. Her response, “I thought you’d want to see me tomorrow”.

Later, Thursday evening around 8pm, Gabby called and wanted to give me a head’s up that she would recommend I do my hair and throw on some makeup tomorrow. Lately, there’s been no reason to get dressed up for work— the tasting rooms are empty and frankly I hadn’t been in the mood. Going through stages in the past week of anger, sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness as my partners and I discussed the future of Three Brothers.

Friday morning, I took Gabby’s advice and got dressed as I normally would on an average Friday. In the morning when I arrived for work, my husband, Justin (who is also a Partner at TBW) was setting up the parking lot in a new format for curbside pickup. He was under the impression we needed 3 lanes on that Friday. Their cover was blown- it turns out that Cassie, along with Barb, Allana and Janelle (all Tasting Room Managers) had arranged for a mass drive-in. Orders continued to pour in Friday morning and around noon, about 70 cars escorted by the local police made their way down Lerch Road and to the winery for pick-up.

Left to right: Barb, Allana, Cassie, Janelle lined up at the car meeting spot before the drive-in

I knew something was up on Thursday, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the way this was going to make me feel. The managers had this idea and over the week, as they organized and rallied orders from employees, friends and family it started to develop into more. They reached out to Nick, our video intern from last summer and asked him to capture the moment. She was in touch with local radio stations and news channels… they had a mission: #supportlocal businesses who are suffering from the shutdown. What started as a surprise for us, at TBW has turned into a movement.

As I stood in our parking lot and car after car with people who I know and care for poured down the driveway, I was completely overwhelmed. I kept getting this feeling that I was attending a funeral while I stood there. Later, as I relived the events in my mind, I came to a realization. What the tasting room team did for us that day had given me hope, my perspective changed… in an instant. I had attended a funeral; one for my fear, doubt, anxiety, and sadness. For more than 10 years, I’ve been mentoring the management team at TBW and last Friday, they taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a leader to date: Hope is powerful and a smile is an act of bravery.

I have so many ideas that are lighting me up. There are silver linings to this pandemic and businesses like ours will be forever changed. We will be more prepared for disaster, we will show our resilience and ability to show up for our community, we will persevere. I’m a big believer in grit, the successful will take this opportunity to make their life, their business, and their community better. We will get through this by showing up every day with hope.

It’s looking like our tasting rooms will be shut down for at least another 4 weeks. We’re taking this time to think about how we want to reopen. It’s very likely, we won’t be able to (or even want to) go back to business as usual in the days following the shutdown. We’re taking this time to talk about how we can reopen with a new, improved model. We’re being forced to get creative during this time and to lean into new ways of showing up. That’s what we’re doing… showing up, just like our team did for us last Friday.

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