Business: Navigating Through a Pandemic and a Rise in Supporting Black Businesses

Mitchell and Mitchell Wines owner, Frank Mitchell with his daughter, Bianca. (Courtesy Frank Mitchell)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, business owners have struggled to keep the doors open and to adapt to the changes that came along with the pandemic. For Mitchell and Mitchell Wines, it was the opposite of struggle. 

How has it been navigating through a pandemic? 

Our emphasis on quality helped us retain the customers that we got. That was the most important thing during the pandemic. Once state stores closed, we got an influx of customers because we were among the few places where you could buy wine. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve added a new twist with virtual wine parties. Before COVID, wine parties were something everybody did in person. Whether you went out to a venue and had wine with your friends, or you just grabbed bottles from your local state store and had people in your backyard. Now, wine parties have become virtual. We ship to parties of 10 to 15 individuals all over the country. 

Has the pandemic affected your business negatively or positively?

We made more money during the pandemic than we did the year before. Our biggest adaptation has been to increase productivity to meet the increased demand. That has been the hardest thing for us, to make sure that we have enough wine products for our existing customers and new customers onboarding. We went from going to this number of customers to three times the number of customers, and we have to anticipate the demand in the future so that we can make the wine now that we’ll be selling in two or three years. 

Have you come up with ways to maintain this positive outcome?

Oh yeah, I have long-term plans. When you talk about the pandemic, the pandemic to me is like a double-sided sword. It can either help you or hurt you; it depends on which way it’s being pushed. Businesses should have these long-term plans and figure out how to survive once the economy springs up.

Could you talk about how the rise in supporting Black-owned businesses has helped you, especially following the past events in the last year? 

The trending of supporting Black businesses has helped me. We got many people who bought from us the first time because we are a Black business. We have customers of all races, colors, and backgrounds that come in and ask, “Are you a Black business?” and then they purchase from us. We believe that our quality brings customers back because we don’t market ourselves as a Black business. We market ourselves as a Pennsylvania-based winery. When you go to our website, there’s nothing about us being Black-owned or Black operated because we’re in the Pennsylvania wine industry. By narrowing our competition level and focusing on trying to compete against other businesses, our means of differentiation is our product. We market ourselves by saying, “Hey, we make good wine,” not by saying, “We’re a Black business; support us.” 

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