Rio Grande Valley businesses, like those around the country, are dealing with disruptions and an upheaval in a way of life unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.
Here’s a look at how three RGV businesses prepared for what they knew was coming and how they are doing in adapting to a new normal.
Menchaca Family Clinic
Michael Menchaca didn’t wait for any official announcements for Menchaca Family Clinic.
The family nurse practitioner went all digital on March 17. He closed his Harlingen clinic in mid-March after neither the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show nor spring break festivities at South Padre Island were called off. He knew the coronavirus had already arrived in the Valley and the need for social distancing was upon the region.
“It would have been irresponsible to not shut down and go digital,” Menchaca said.
The nurse practitioner was already an advocate of telemedicine. He was actively communicating with his patients daily via online platforms before the coronavirus crisis hit. It was thus a smooth transition for clinician and patients to go digital.
“Going virtual has required we speed up and not slow down,” Menchaca said in a recent Facebook post to his patients. “We’ve been providing telemedicine since early 2018. There is no learning curve for us.”
Menchaca now operates out of his Weslaco home for up to 12 hours a day as he provides care and medical expertise for his patients. He is posting daily guidance and videos on his clinic’s social media outlets during the shelter-in-place days. Menchaca is hopeful the Valley will fare better than many other parts of the United States.
“I think we did a good job of getting ahead of things,” he said. “We need to ride it out, stay safe and support our local businesses.”
Training For Warriors
Bobby Muniz owns two Harlingen businesses.
He’s a pharmacist by training. It was an easy call to close the lobby of the Muniz Rio Grande Pharmacy while staying open for drive-through and curbside services. It was more of a challenge to transition his other business – Training For Warriors Harlingen – to go all online.
The later Muniz business is a fitness and wellness gym that has mostly Baby Boomer-era clients. Muniz, who is also a Harlingen school board member, began transitioning to online and live workouts in early March.
“I wanted to give my students another option if they felt uncomfortable coming to the gym,” he said of those early-March days when news of the coronavirus was becoming more prevalent.
By mid-March, Muniz knew the closing of gyms and fitness businesses was imminent. He communicated that real possibility on a daily basis with his clients. Workouts were also tailored and adjusted to the online and virtual format.
“It has gone really well,” Muniz said of the live TFW workouts. “The workouts are tough and challenging.”
He sees some of his clients staying with live/virtual workouts on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.
“We’ll get through this,” Muniz said. “I think when we do we’re going to realize there’s a lot of freedoms we took for granted. We will be grateful to have them back.”
Rios of Mercedes Boot Company
Clayton Evans and the management team at Rios of Mercedes began making workplace adjustments weeks before the coronavirus threat became real.
Workstations were moved around on factory floors to create more space between workers. A section of the company’s spacious lunchroom was converted to manufacturing space. Technological setups were made with the realization some employees would need to work remotely from home.
Employees were assured it was best for everyone if they stayed home if feeling ill. Daily communication with employees was improved to keep them informed of daily developments.
“We also stepped up all of our cleaning operations a notch,” said Evans, the company’s chief financial officer. “We did everything we could to reduce the risk to our employees.”
Hidalgo County’s shelter-in-place order in late March temporarily shut down the Mercedes boot maker. It reopened in early April under a revised plan that allows operations with a minimal number of production employees.
“It’s one of those things where you just have to weather the storm,” Evans said.