With a frustrating 2020 behind them, many of Ramona’s local businesses are finding ways to move forward in the new year.
After months of struggling with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions as well as a faltering economy, some business owners have come up with new strategies and increased options for their customers that have renewed their hopes for the future.
From increasing their online presence, to offering more, diverse items for sale, to hitting the road with their products, local businesses are finding ways to adjust in the pandemic era.
Although Rose’s Tasting Room is in Old Town, San Diego, owners Clark Crider and Julie Miramontes Crider are longtime Ramona residents.
Their business is all about promoting San Diego-based wineries, breweries and artists — especially those based in Ramona. Of course, those are also some of the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions.
“Because of where our store is — in Old Town — we’ve usually had to do very little to attract customers,” said Julie Miramontes Crider. “Now that people aren’t just milling around and stopping by, I’ve had to reconfigure our priorities a bit.”
For example, she is posting a lot more on social media to let potential customers know their operating hours, days they’re open and when new items arrive.
Their tasting room offers a large selection of San Diego-made wine and beer, mixers and wine club memberships. They also sell an ever-changing selection of items such as wine- and beer-themed apparel, linens, coasters, glassware, kitchen items, snacks and even face masks. Many of the items have a witty, adult/retro vibe.
The Criders also are making efforts to get more of their products online. Creating a larger online presence has helped get new customers interested in what they’re selling, but also has proven popular to repeat customers who want to buy their favorite items and send gifts, they said.
Rose’s Tasting Room is inside Fiesta de Reyes, 2754 Calhoun St., San Diego, and can be contacted through rosestastingroom.com, [email protected] or call 619-293-7673.
Meanwhile, another local in the wine business is focused on attracting tourists and travelers to area wineries and restaurants.
Nelson Pizarro, owner of Castelli Family Vineyards with his wife, Cassie and her father, Michael Castelli, has developed an app designed to bring people to Ramona wineries.
The San Diego Wine Tasting App allows users to find the winery closest to their location, as opposed to many wine tasting apps that send customers to venues down the hill to tasting rooms closer to the heart of San Diego, Pizarro said. It also includes opening and closing hours, directions and types of wine available.
“The new app is going pretty good,” Pizarro said. “We started it up between August and September, and we now have five wineries participating. More than 200 people have the app on their phones.”
Wineries pay $26 a month to be featured on the app, which can be downloaded free from the Google Play Store (Android) and the Apple Store (iPhone).
Aside from increased promotion of the app on San Diego websites and getting more restaurants involved, Pizarro said he is working to get Castelli wine sold at restaurants and stores. To help meet that goal, he said they’re looking at ways to reduce the costs per bottle and “constantly plugging away” on social media. The vineyard has a selection of more than a dozen wines, including many award winners.
It’s not just winery owners that are frustrated with COVID lockdowns, Pizarro said.
“Our customers want to physically be at the winery,” he said.
Since they can’t with the current lockdown, he has made a push to sell winery gift cards that can be sent online.
“We ship our wines all over the country, and it really helps get our name out there,” Pizarro said.
Castelli Family Vineyards is located at 17870 Oak Grove Road, and can be reached at www.castellifamilyvineyards.com, @castelliFV or call 619-997-5141.
The stay-at-home orders have also affected the livelihood of Gil and Nancy Riegler, owners of the Oasis Camel Dairy.
The Rieglers normally spend much of the year at country fairs and rodeos all over the southwest, where they host a traveling bird act, turkey races and camel rides.
But with the fairs shut down, the Rieglers have found new ways to share their animals with the public. They host private tours for small family groups and offer their animal show live on Zoomcasts.
“We’re very grateful to see people supporting small businesses,” Nancy Riegler said. “We are honing our household tours and keeping families safe as more and more search for socially distanced experiences that get them out in the sunshine sharing unique moments.”
While many people complain about endless Zoom classes and work meetings, Riegler said it doesn’t have to be all work and no play.
“Zooms are an awesome way to connect families and friends around the globe,” she said. “Zoom entertainment is not a sad COVID alternative — it is fun, silly, connecting and we are doing a lot of them.”
Oasis is also focusing more on online sales of its camel-based products such as camel milk chocolate, soap and lotions.
“We are seeing a definite uptick in online sales, as people look for healthy small business alternatives,” Riegler said.
To learn more about the camels, turkeys and other animals residing at Oasis Camel Dairy, or to reserve a private tour, visit: Facebook/cameldairysandiego or www.cameldairy.com
While many local businesses are starting the new year at home, at least one is ramping up time spent on the road.
Three Sons Farms sells home-grown eggs and poultry products. Before the pandemic, their primary outlets were San Diego farmers markets.
When farmers markets were shut down early in the COVID pandemic, Three Sons needed to make some changes to keep the business in operation. Nick Jaquez, who runs the farm with his family, said they started doing home deliveries.
The shift in marketing has been working.
“Our home deliveries are going really well, especially across San Diego,” Jaquez said. “Every week we’re seeing new addresses being added to our deliveries.”
Three Sons has also increased their online selections. Buyers can choose from chicken products, eggs, fruit and vegetables.
The company has added honey from a farmer local to San Diego and has a selection of cheese, butter and ghee, a form of clarified butter many people believe is a healthier alternative, Jaquez said.
“Many of our products come from people our buyers are familiar with from the local farmers markets,” he said.
In addition, they’re considering some new items customers have been asking about, including coffee, mushrooms and fresh bread.
The farm continues to try new venues. They have a set up for mobile processing, so local producers with home-grown birds can learn the butchering process themselves, without the expense of having to purchase the equipment.
And they started SoCal Pullets — now SoCal Poultry — a side business in which they raised chicks known for good egg production and sold them when the pullets reached laying age.
But one of their biggest changes for the new year has been returning to an old standby.
“Now that some of the farmers markets are open again, we now sell at the Leucadia Farmers Market,” Jacquez said.
For home delivery orders, contact ThreeSonsFarms.org or facebook.com/@threesonsfarmscalifornia. To purchase pullets or inquire about processing classes, contact SoCalPoultry.com. Messages for both sites can be left at 760-855-0462.
If you would like to share any changes to your business strategies in light of COVID-19, email Susan Gill Vardon, Ramona Sentinel editor at [email protected]