Olivia vonNieda, CEO of start-up Jova Coffee Co., is relieved that the uncertainty of the election is over.

“There is obviously polarization about the outcome," she said. "Some folks are happy; others are disappointed,” said vonNieda, an Ephrata, Pa., native and cofounder of Jova Coffee, a cold-brew start-up based in Lancaster County.

She was among hundreds of business executives and entrepreneurs from small to large companies who signed a “Leadership Now” open letter calling for patience during and after the elections. These business leaders wanted to promote civility among employees, communities, and the American people, according to the Leadership Now Project.

She also worked as an election manager in Lancaster County and was impressed with how diligent the volunteers worked to count every vote.

“As for the vaccine, the [business] community is elated that we are closer to having a solution to the pandemic," she said. "It goes without saying that we have a long way to go, but getting at least an inch closer is a small reprieve.”

Olivia vonNieda (left) is a small-business entrepreneur and cofounder of Jova Coffee. She also worked as an election manager in Lancaster, along with Olivia Schmidts.
Olivia vonNieda
Olivia vonNieda (left) is a small-business entrepreneur and cofounder of Jova Coffee. She also worked as an election manager in Lancaster, along with Olivia Schmidts.

Ellis Guiles, CEO and co-owner of Graboyes Commercial Window and Glass Solutions, also hopes that calm remains following the election.

“The process [of counting votes] has time built into it. Could Harrisburg have allowed time to do it more quickly? Yes, but let’s let it play out,” he said. “We have a democracy to protect, and we’re a country of laws. Honor the results and peacefully transfer power."

His commercial glass business — which specializes in “glazing,” part of the installation of entrance doors, partitions and glass curtain wall for skyscrapers — is in “choppy waters,” Guiles said. The Northeastern region was particularly hard hit.

The commercial building and construction industry closely follows the Architectural Billing Index, which “dropped off of a cliff. As an industry, we likely won’t return to those pre-pandemic levels of business until the fourth quarter of 2022 or early 2023,” he said.

In his network, “people are glad about the election results but have some concern over transition from the current administration to the new administration,” Guiles said.

“The vaccine news is seen as hopeful with a realization that there is still months ahead of us and multiple issues yet to be addressed” before it becomes widely available, he said.

Pandemic worries continue

Steve Hersh and his son-in-law Brett Sandler never imagined they’d open a “cash for gold” business.

Then the pandemic hit. In June, the jeweler duo opened a retail shop in Horsham called We Buy Gold to meet soaring demand for buyers and sellers of precious metals, including not just gold, but also silver and platinum.

Amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 spike this fall, “gold’s price is three times what it was” during the last crisis, the financial crash of 2008, Hersh said. Gold currently hovers at $1,865 an ounce, versus an average of $753 in 2008, said Hersh, who learned the business from his grandfather.

“The price is really driven by people’s perceived demand for cash,” Sandler said. And they don’t take walk-ins; all business is appointment only. The father and son-in-law at one time had seven such stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey but closed them all in 2013 after demand petered out.

Now, business continues to boom due to concerns about the virus, job losses, economic hardship, and “frankly, gold is the anti-stock market,” Hersh said. After the stock market cratered in March, the price of gold shot up as investors scrambled to find a safe haven for their money, and that brought buyers and sellers out in force.

What about now that Joe Biden is president-elect? The pandemic remains the most important business factor, Hersh said.

When Pfizer earlier this week announced a possible effective vaccine, “the stock market went crazy, and gold went down. But that’s since reversed itself,” Hersh said. “Precious metals always go up in price when things go bad."

Their other family business sits squarely on Jewelers Row — Milner Diamonds on Sansom Street — and is doing a brisk trade in pandemic engagement rings, as couples rush to get married.

“We’re also selling the ‘big zero’ birthday gifts. People with money aren’t traveling, they aren’t taking trips to Europe, or spending eating out. But they’re definitely buying jewelry” in the $5,000 to $50,000 price tag range, Sandler said.

Temple small-biz help

Small Business Saturday promises to be different this year. Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 28 — just after Thanksgiving, a day after Black Friday, and two days before Cyber Monday.

Jamie Shanker-Passero, associate director of Temple University’s Small Business Development Center, which is housed at the Fox School of Business, said small businesses have to get creative this holiday season because foot traffic will be down.

While in-person events may still happen, "the incentives that often come with Small Business Saturday will not be the same. The goal cannot be to fill your store up to capacity, so businesses will have to find new ways to pivot.”

Temple University’s Small Business Development Center will host two “Small Business Saturday Virtual Brainstorming Sessions" on Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. These are free and open to any small-business owner in the area.

During the sessions, consultants from the Temple center will brainstorm strategies for Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the holiday season. For information or to register, visit Temple’s website: https://www.fox.temple.edu/institutes-centers/small-business-development-center.

In addition to the two Small Business Saturday sessions, the center is hosting free webinars ahead of the holiday shopping season: