What's On My Mind & How Hackberry Tea Is Handling COVID-19
This has been a really weird week at the Kellsos. I’m sure your family is in the midst of one too. Exactly one week ago, we were at Disneyland enjoying our spring break. Obviously, we were aware and conscious of COVID-19, but it didn’t seem like a huge concern. We were busy riding the amazing Rise of the Resistance ride and talking about how the virus could get weird. (Seriously…that ride is insane. When the park opens back up, go ride it!) We got home late Thursday night, and it seems like everything has changed over the weekend, although I’m sure we missed some stuff in the Disney bubble. Jenna and the kids are all in school and have been on spring break, but that was extended until 3/30. It will be interesting to see what their schools decide for the rest of the year. I’m really hoping that Jonathan doesn’t get his high school graduation postponed, but if so, that’s a small price to pay for the safety of so many. Thankfully as of this writing, in our county, only 9 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. We’re hopefully doing things to keep it at bay instead of in response to what we’re seeing in a lot of the world.
I’ve had many conversations since we got back from Disneyland, and the responses to this situation are amazing. Last week they ranged from, “this is stupid and an overreaction” to legitimate fear and probably everywhere in between. However, in the last couple of days, the responses have more been stories about when people felt like they realized it was real and concerning. A lot of people talk about their first trip to get groceries this week. Seeing the empty shelves was shocking. Friday night, Jenna took Eden and Noah to the local Albertson’s to buy some soda for friends that we were having over the next night. The next morning she asked them if that trip scared them. Without hesitation, both of them said, “Yes”. They couldn’t believe how bare the shelves were. I was talking to a buddy this afternoon, and he said his ah-ha moment was when he went to the store and saw cops sitting outside monitoring the situation. Wherever we land on the spectrum of concern, I think we’re all recognizing that the next couple of weeks and potentially months will be something we’ll be talking about for years.
I’m one of the pastors / elders at my church, and last night was supposed to be our monthly elder dinner. However, instead, we had a Zoom meeting to discuss the impacts of this on our church and what we’ll be doing to help the people in our church body. We decided that erring on the side of caution was the best move. That meant canceling more than 30 events in the next two weeks, from small group meetings to training classes to children’s activities. I think this is wise and am glad to be participating in a group that makes dramatic changes like that. I also know that there are many in our church that falls into the ‘high risk’ category. It is sweet to see people quick to want to help those by either bringing them food or toilet paper (apparently an upper-respiratory disease means we all need 10x the tp we needed before). We’re utilizing every technology available, while we continue to stay locked down as much as possible. I hope you find yourself in a community that is helping those near you in need. If you personally have a need and don’t know where to reach out, feel free to email me directly by replying to this email. I would be happy to find a group in your area that can help.
So, as my family is locked down at home, I’m trying to maneuver the updated CDC and presidential guidelines to protect Hackberry employees and, you, the customers. Let me give you a brief update of where we’re at. We’re actually in a weird niche’ because we’re an online tea dealer. We don’t have customers walking into the shop for cups of tea, so we don’t have to shut that portion of our business down. We have always followed our Arizona county and the FDA cleaning guidelines. Not surprising, those guidelines very much match anything we see as updated guidance for businesses. I know, it’s shocking, we require that our employees wash their hands and clean surfaces before they put food on them. I think we’ll keep doing that. I am looking at the regularity of our deeper cleaning tasks to see if we need to change anything and expect that monthly tasks will move to weekly, but I don’t anticipate major changes. This is actually reassuring to me. I kind of feel like most of the stuff we’re doing on this front, we should’ve been doing before. In that light, I like the idea that we don’t have to do more but will be ready to make any changes necessary.
As far as production goes, we have a very cross-trained crew that just loves the coffee & tea business. I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone and am excited to see them power through without missing a beat. We’re not big enough to have an office staff that will be working from home (although Zoë has worked from home pretty much since Zander was born last summer). Today no one has shown any symptoms of anything, and we’re going full strength, but if we have to send people home for a few weeks, we won’t see a significant impact on production. We’re going to err on the side of caution, so there may be a day or two where we are not able to handle all of the orders, but frankly, I have no idea what our sales will look like in a week or two.
I do want to make a note because I have been asked this by several customers. There is some concern that tea comes from China and is therefore potentially carrying COVID-19. This is not true. Tea is harvested several times a year and takes quite a long time to make it to our shelves. Months. Any tea we have in the shop has long since past the longest life this virus can live on surfaces. It isn't even close. Plus our internal processes and your brewing process will kill anything on the leaves. If there was a chance that the teas could be a carrier of the virus, we would shut down tomorrow. As you can read from the rest of the tone of this letter, I'm erring on the side of caution in every facet of this business. Do not worry about the tea being a carrier of the virus.
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I want to close by saying that this virus has a far-reaching impact. One of my closest friends has a child that is battling leukemia, and the travel restrictions have had a huge impact on his ability to receive the medical care he needs. One of our local news outlets just wrote an article about David’s battle and his treatment options. I know his story is not the only one; stories like his are all over the country and probably in every hospital. As you think through your decisions these next few weeks, please err on the side of caution. If we find out in 3 months we overreacted, I don’t think any of us will regret it. However, in 3 months, I don’t want to look back on my actions today and wish I had done more.
I’m sorry for the long letter; hopefully, you have some extra time on your hands and were able to read it.
Thanks - Matt