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how covid affected our business

March 2020, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declares a state of emergency. Eleven NJ residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, casinos, gyms and schools are ordered to shut down indefinitely. Gatherings of 50 or more are no longer allowed.

When the initial two week quarantine was put into effect, Brandon and I didn’t think much of it. We worked alone, just the two of us and the warehouse only had two other commercial tenants so not much changed for us in terms of work. We kept our distance, went nowhere, but kept building.

When all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down, our main lumber supplier, who was considered to be an essential business, voluntarily shut down. We had just gotten our biggest order in the week before and so we had enough material to cover us for a while.

The further we got into lockdown, the more opportunities were thrown our way. We landed our first commercial job for a local developer, we maxed out the Nissan in more ways than one, and were asked to build things we had never built before. Our projects were getting bigger and we were doing more of them.

Not long after we started building in the shop, we realized that dust and audio equipment don’t mix. We put drop cloths up, but had no direct access to outside, no real ventilation or dust collection and so dust would get everywhere. It became a real hassle to have to constantly dust off the speakers and the drum kit and the coffee table, and so we decided to completely enclose the studio and build a dust-free room inside of the shop. It was just about half the space, with about four feet on one side for our new wood rack. We framed out a couple walls, added a window and a door. The door was so small that we had to build the room with everything, the couch, the piano, the desk, all inside.

Looking back, it was so not smart. The new wood rack had no light. We had no plywood storage and so any cutoffs we would have, we would store on the roof of the room. If we ever wanted to see what we had or grab a piece, we had to climb up the wood rack with a flashlight.

Despite all that, the room worked for a while. It was really nice in there, but COVID really ramped up our business and we found ourselves spending less and less time in there and instead using the floor space to store finished trestles and chairs.

There came a point when we had five tables in the shop and we were polyurethaning them on the floor. That was when we knew I was time to take the room down.

We spent about three days straight taking down the room, clearing off everything we’d been storing on the roof, disassembling the wood rack, taking the booth down. We worked day and night, moving everything we wanted to keep from the room, the piano, the couch, my paintings, into the far corner of the shop. We built a room around it all, just big enough to fit it. We had about a foot of leg room in front of the couch. We had a small space heater in there and that was where we’d eat our lunch or where Brooklyn would hangout while we were working.

We built a new wood rack. The only decent quality wood we could get at the time was in 16’ lengths and so we built a new wood rack along the side wall to accommodate boards so long. We built another work table, added some shelves and after those three days, we had almost doubled the size of the shop. We had a ton of space and we would need it in the next couple of months.

2020 was a year of intense focus and growth for Path. We spent more time in the shop than ever before - partially because we couldn't go anywhere else, partially because we had enough work to keep us there. We had to navigate sky-rocketing material costs, stock shortages, extended lead times and social-distanced deliveries. The prices of 2x4s jumped from $3.52 to over $10.00. A single sheet of plywood cost over $100. We found ourselves traveling farther than ever before to get the same materials we’d been working with the year prior. It was completely unprecedented. A lot for any business to handle, especially one so new.

It goes without saying that this was a trying time for everyone. We witnessed, firsthand, the impact this had on fellow tradesmen and women, small and commercial businesses. We were extremely fortunate to have had the experience we did during that time. We started building more than just dining tables. Hutches and servers, barn doors and side tables were now a part of our resume.

On almost every delivery, our customers would say to us that they had been spending so much time at home and were looking around at all the different projects they wanted to do. Not to mention, any and all furniture anyone had ordered at that time was backordered for months. That’s where we came in.

We rarely turned a project down and took everything as a learning experience. We challenged ourselves in a lot of new ways and grew not only as a business but as people. Our reach was expanding, new ideas were flooding in and we were more excited than ever for the future of Path.


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