“Going two months without incoming money is horrible,” DeMieri said. “I’m 36 years old and over $3 million in debt. Living in NYC is extremely expensive, and I’m not entitled to unemployment or stimulus payments. Nobody needs it more than me, but what type of leader would I be to ask my guys to follow me into something like this?”
Of course, DeMieri also realizes there’s an economic side to this and he “can’t knock people for needing to bring in money."
"This started as a health crisis, but now, it’s a health and financial crisis," he said. "I’ve been hemorrhaging money to survive, but I believe I made the right decision. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m afraid for my own family, my parents, and grandparents, as well as my employees and customers. I’m not trying to prove that I’m something I’m not.”
DeMieri is concerned for other shops as well.
“We all know the good times don’t last forever and we need to be able to sustain during our downtimes. Many shops were running so tightly that this will be the nail in their coffin---they aren’t going to make it," he said. "I’m also worried that we’ll see people leave the industry altogether which is not a good thing since we’re already dealing with a technician shortage.”
While Frog Hollow’s doors are closed to business, DeMieri is still working on his business. He has been busy retrofitting the shop with glass partitions, sanitizing the shop and preparing to reopen.
“There’s a point where we have to admit that we can’t defeat the coronavirus right now, and we can’t let it destroy our business either," he said. "I’m in the unfortunate position of deciding whether to go out of business or determining how to navigate this, and in a business built on volume and speed, the changes needed to operate will slow the process down. For shops that already struggle, like us, it’s going to be hard, and I hope we can survive it.”
Frog Hollow Collision plans to reopen May 4, and plans to sanitize to the best of their ability, but DeMieri pointed out it will be difficult in this industry because, no matter what employees do in the office, they still have to get in people’s cars.
"Acting like you can completely sanitize each car that enters the shop is a stretch, but we need to figure out how to push forward or fold up our chairs and go home," he said. "You have to hope you’ll be as safe as you can. Too many people have been lost to this disease, but even more people are going to be lost if we don’t find a way to restart the economic engine soon.
“My shop is my life and has been my life’s work,” DeMieri added. “It’s terrifying to know that everything I’ve worked for could be gone when we reopen. I may not be reopening to what I had; I have no idea what I’m reopening to. It’s hard to fight the mental anguish of thinking your whole life’s work could be gone, just like that. I’m hoping that’s not the case.”