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Tuesday, 05 May 2020 19:22

NY Shop Owner Opts to Close Shop During COVID-19 to Protect Employees

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Anthony DeMieri closed his auto body shop, Frog Hollow Collision, on March 16, the same day the governor of New York closed schools. Anthony DeMieri closed his auto body shop, Frog Hollow Collision, on March 16, the same day the governor of New York closed schools. Courtesy of Anthony DeMieri

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New York has been one of the areas hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.

When the governor closed schools March 16, Anthony DeMieri, owner of Frog Hollow Collision in Bethpage, NY, made the business decision to close his shop doors, even though collision repair shops were deemed essential.

 

“It was a health decision,” he said. “I’m in the middle of New York. It’s a war zone, and these guys just don’t get it. They think it’s a joke, but it’s not a joke.”

 

Frog Hollow Collision is located just outside New York City, but the shop’s employees live in Brooklyn and Queens.

 

“When the crisis hit hard, I did what I believed a real leader should do---I protected my guys because they are more important than money; I respect my team,” DeMieri explained. “I worked with these guys as a tech for 20 years before I took ownership of the shop, and we have such a strong bond---I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to them. They’d come to work tomorrow if I asked them to, but I don’t believe that’s in their best interest, just mine.”

 

Thanks to the additional unemployment benefits through the CARES Act, members of DeMieri’s team are making as much as they were when employed.

 

“I did what I felt was safest for everyone, and although my techs have the option of taking their tools somewhere else, I can’t stand the thought of losing one of them to this virus because I chose to keep my business open," DeMieri said. "My guys are all making over $900 per week. No shop is open for the benefit of anyone but themselves. Sometimes, we need to be saved from ourselves.

 

“The auto body industry tends to have that ‘shut up and work’ response to everything, but this time, we need to do the opposite and stay home to help the doctors and nurses be able to keep up with the rate of infection,” DeMieri continued. “I don’t care about politics; I care about my friends’ lives as police officers and medical professionals.

 

"COVID-19 is real and knocking on my door. Other shop owners have the chance to keep it off theirs, and I urge them, as business owners, to be a leader and help their team survive until the government benefits come through.”

 

Although the government is offering a variety of programs to help business owners keep their staff employed, DeMieri chose not to pursue that option.

 

“It means they still have to come to work and continue to be exposed to one another," he said. "We have a small shop, so they can’t get that far apart. Even in a larger shop, everyone is using the same bathrooms, so while you can hope you’re disinfecting effectively, it’s just not practical. COVID-19 is mostly transmitted on metal surfaces which we work with all day, next to each other, lending a helping hand. Whether you like to admit it or not, this job requires us being near one another.


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