The year of Covid, 2020, wreaked havoc on small businesses/organizations. “Weathering the Storm” will profile local businesses in an attempt to celebrate survival and the promise of calmer seas on the horizon. We ask about the enormous challenges they faced, how businesses adapted, what the future holds, and ultimately how, as a community, we may help them rise above the tides.
Some of Creature Comforts/Pawsitively Marblehead’s campers
Erin McCarthy and husband James took ownership of Creature Comforts in August of 2019 with the intention of continuing the 20 plus year tradition of making pet owner’s lives easier. Along with door-to-door daycare, overnight care, walks and socialization, the business included operating “Pawsitively Marblehead,” the retail arm located at 52 Atlantic Avenue. The notion of facing a global pandemic six months later seemed implausible.
McCarthy vividly recalls the world literally “coming to a halt” and the sudden, jarring impact felt last March. The seismic shift to WFH (work from home) and virtually no travel had devastating consequences on Creature Comforts, resulting in temporary closures of both the daycare and the retail store.
“We typically pick up close to 60 dogs per day between our 4 vehicles,” McCarthy recalled. That changed drastically within the first few months of the pandemic when the exposure of entering client’s houses was “just too great for our comfort level.”
When overnight and in-home pet care requests declined, and the store temporarily closed, McCarthy took the opportunity to ramp up social media and virtual shopping capabilities. The use of photos, videos, the introduction of curbside pickup, local delivery, and holiday gift bags (for one’s own pet or to be delivered as a gift) helped soften the blow. In an effort to help fellow businesses, McCarty added local products from Hestia, First Harbor Company and Goodness Gracious Dog Treats to her holiday offerings.
McCarthy was cautious in introducing what became an owner drop-off model–a temporary transition from the convenient, built-in transportation model.
“Switching to this model could’ve been a turn-off for many people, especially with kids home doing remote learning and people stuck on Zoom meetings all day,” said McCarthy. Loyal customers not only adapted but were thrilled to work within the new guidelines.
After nearly four months, Creature Comforts returned to their Monday-Friday transportation services. McCarthy feels optimistic about the future and eternally indebted to her staff for “sticking with us throughout this crazy year!”
McCarthy’s ten-year stint training seals and sea lions at the New England Aquarium laid the groundwork for a new puppy training program–a natural extension given her experience and the influx of pandemic puppies. Heading up the program is staff member Mikhaila Waldman whose long history of dog obedience and service training makes her the ideal candidate for teaching foundation behaviors, manners, and proper leash walking.
A few of the items offered at Pawsitively Marblehead
James & Erin McCarthy took over the reins of Pawsitively Marblehead/Creature Comforts in Aug. 2019