By: Ahmad Graves-El
One positive development that’s taken place during our public health emergency is that area residents are discovering that they’ve had a Ms. or Mr. Fix-it, hibernating beneath their professional career exteriors.
Area residents are using this challenging moment in time to start that garden they’ve long dreamed of planting, paint that wall that’s been gradually chipping away, or even minor things like changing the light bulb that’s become less bright.
Those who have the finances to do so, have also been looking into changing the tiles on their bathroom floor, upgrading those 20th century kitchen cabinets, or maybe even adding that new kitchen island they’ve had their eyes on.
Fortunately, for South Jersey residents, LaTorre’s Hardware in Vineland and Matteo’s Family Kitchens & Flooring, Inc. out of Woodstown are two local establishments that have remained open even as our current health crisis persists.
SNJ Today recently spoke with Victor LaTorre, owner of LaTorre’s Hardware and Steve Matteo, co-owner of Matteo’s Family Kitchens & Flooring, Inc., to get their insights on how they’ve been serving customers since the pandemic hit, how they’ve been helping newly inspired do-it-yourselfers, plus more.
SNJ Today: What kind of services is your company providing to customers while we’re in a state mandated lockdown to combat COVID-19?
Victor LaTorre: We are offering our full services currently. Our repair shop is open to fix all lawn and garden power equipment. We are helping people do small home repairs such as leaky faucets and faulty light switches.
Steve Matteo: We are working by appointment only in the showroom and have limited hours; Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are still designing kitchens, bathrooms, back splashes, and coordinating floors and jobs as normal.
SNJ: Since more people are home due to the current health emergency, have you been receiving more calls asking questions about home and gardening than normal? If so, what are your thoughts about this development?
VL: Yes, many people are starting first time gardens and doing their own lawn care since they are home more. The first weekend of the quarantine we sold more leaf rakes than all last fall combined.
SM: We have seen more customers by appointment and have been taking calls. We have seen work and interest drop off considerably from what we would normally be doing at this time. People are focusing on being safe and healthy, and we expect a large turnout once the restrictions are lifted.
SNJ: With more time on their hands, many people are becoming do-it-yourselfers. Do you gentlemen have any advice for anyone stepping into the realms of home improvement or putting in their own kitchen cabinets, etc., for the very first time?
VL: Know your limitations, don’t take on a project you wouldn’t normally try! Research using the internet or YouTube for instructions and don’t be afraid to ask us questions.
SM: I see and hear from many of my friends and family that are finishing lists from years ago and starting to tackle projects inside the home. If a customer has never installed a cabinet before, we are more than happy to assist them with advice and knowledge on installations.
SNJ: In general, how has business gone for you during these challenging times?
VL: We have been very steady with customers. We are just grateful to be open and helping people get things done.
SM: Business is down. We are about 60% off from last year. We have many jobs in the warehouse ready to go but are waiting for the customers to be comfortable enough for our contractors to safely work there.
SNJ: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t discussed during this interview?
VL: We are constantly cleaning the doors and counters as well as keypads trying to provide a safe shopping experience for our customers. We have extended our sales counters to provide enough distance between everyone.
SM: Now is the time to get your ideas and pricing. We can mask up and come to visit your home and get ideas. Or, we are able to do remote designing and work on your free estimates so when the pandemic is over, you are ready to go. There will be a rush for jobs to be done and there could be a wait to get to you. Please call today and prepare.
For more information visit latorre-hardware.com and matteokitchens.com
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