Employee Company Bulletin

September 3, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

With Labor Day just around the corner, we are coming to the end of a successful summer season. All three areas of our business have seen sales growth during July and August. In particular, retail and landscape have continued to benefit from our customers’ increased interest in their homes and gardens.

 

We are also fortunate that our communities continue to experience a low rate of transmission of Covid-19.  I want to thank everyone on staff for their efforts to keep us all safe and to reduce our risk. Your hard work and efforts have paid off.  While we have had a handful of people quarantine out of abundance of caution, we have not experienced a positive case of Covid-19 among our staff members since early April.

 

Heading into the fall season we cannot take this track record for granted. If anyone on staff does test positive for Covid-19, or suspects they may be infected, we have specific steps we will take to protect you and our customers from further spread; specific guidelines on this subject are below. I encourage everyone to speak with your manager, Karen Hicks Courts, Bill Jantzen, or anyone in senior leadership should you have any questions or concerns regarding our policies.

 

As we head into the fall season, we will be making further improvements to our facilities with the addition of an ultra-violet light disinfecting system to the air condition systems in all our offices and customer areas.  We are also changing our fall festival activities to conform to best practices for health and safety. To minimize risk in the garden center, we will not be offering hayrides, farm animals, or food consumption on the premises during the fall. We will continue to have our Otto The Ghost animated story, but with an outdoor entrance and line to accommodate social distancing on our busiest days, and we will offer many Fall food items on a “to go” basis.  

 

I am optimistic that with the coming season we will continue to see a surge of new customers in all areas of our business as Long Islanders continue to express a renewed interest in gardening.

 

Being able to accommodate our customers would not be possible without all your hard work and effort. I want to personally thank you for your ability to welcome new customers and move our business forward in a positive direction.

– Stephen

COVID-19 Action and Communication FAQ

 

What will we do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

  • An employee who tests positive will self-isolate and seek medical care as needed.
  • We will clean and disinfect as is appropriate based on the circumstances.
    • We will wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, we will wait as long as possible.
    • During this waiting period, we will open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
    • If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary; we will continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
  • We will ask infected employees to identify others who were in close contact with them – those who worked within 6 feet of them, for 15 minutes or more, within the 48 hours prior to the sick individual showing symptoms or receiving a positive test.
    • Inform identified employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace while maintaining privacy confidentiality as required.
    • Ask exposed employees to get COVID-19 testing.
  • Follow all directions from the Nassau County Department of Health or other public health agencies.

 

What will we do when an employee is suspected to have COVID-19?

  • An employee who suspects they may have COVID-19 will be sent for a test.
    • The employee will remain home from work while we await test results.
    • The employee may be eligible for pay under the CARES Act.
  • We will clean and disinfect as is appropriate based on the circumstances.
    • We will wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, we will wait as long as possible.
    • During this waiting period, we will open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
    • If it has been 7 days or more since the employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary; we will continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
  • We will conduct enhanced screening for those employees who were in close contact with an employee suspected to have COVID-19.
  • We will maintain privacy confidentiality as required.
  • Follow all directions from the Nassau County Department of Health or other public health agencies.

May 18, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

Yesterday marked two months since we made the decision to voluntarily close for two weeks in response to the rapid spread of Covid-19 on Long Island. Since that moment everyone at Hicks Nurseries has been forced to deal with unprecedented challenges in both our professional and personal lives. In the beginning, we were facing questions of survival as the closure came at the most critical time of year for our business. After re-opening on a limited basis in mid-April we began to ponder how to chart a course forward. The one constant throughout this time has been uncertainty. Heading into May we were questioning if we could limit the decline in business to levels not experienced since the Great Depression. I have often said, when discussing our values and culture, that people are most important element in our business, and that if our business burned to the ground, as long as our people came to work, we would find a way to get through it. The past month has proven this to be true.

 

Over the last four weeks we have seen a resurgence of interest in gardening like never before, as people embrace horticulture as an outlet in these trying times. As a result, our retail business has gone from a world of minimizing risk and business contraction, to dealing with record levels of sales during our busiest month of the year. Our commercial and landscape teams are facing the same challenge of satisfying customers in this new environment. Such changes in fortune would be daunting during “normal” times, but to overcome this adversity during a national health crisis is truly extraordinary. I cannot begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for the commitment and effort I have witnessed these past few weeks.

 

If we have learned anything so far this spring, it is that uncertainty continues to be the dominant factor in our lives. While there will continue to be challenges ahead, I have no doubt, after seeing the results you have achieved in just a few short weeks, we will be able to meet these challenges and prevail. On behalf of myself and my family, I wish to personally thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, to help us weather this storm.

 

 

Stephen

April 27, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

This week will mark the beginning of May, the most important month in the busiest season of the year. On its own, spring in a garden center brings pressures of increased customer traffic, incoming merchandise, and expanded hours.  This year is unlike any other we have faced in our lifetimes and requires effort and commitment that is truly above and beyond. 

 

In recognition of this fact, we are introducing a Spring 2020 Employee Appreciation Program for the months of May and June

 

All hourly staff members will receive a bonus equivalent to $2.00 per hour for each hour worked during the months of May and June.  One payment will be made the week of May 27 and the second no later than July 1. The payment will be made to all staff members in good standing at that time. Should your normal seasonal schedule end prior to the end of June, the lump sum payment will be included in your final paycheck.  In addition, we are reversing the salary reductions that were instituted in April for salaried staff (we are not restoring them for the executive team).  

 

Please reach out to your manager or Karen Hicks Courts if you have any questions.

 

This program is a recognition that the next two months will be critical to our success for all of 2020 and beyond.  Despite the fact that we continue to suffer a significant decline in sales compared to prior years, there are signs everywhere that spring is coming and with it the desire of our customers to plant their vegetable and flower gardens and to enjoy their homes and gardens.  We must make every effort to make the next two months as successful as possible, while being as safe as possible.

 

I want to reiterate my thanks to everyone who is working harder than ever and adapting under enormous pressure to get us through this period.  While there is no lack of worry in the daily headlines, there are also signs that green shoots of optimism are starting to become visible.  We must focus on the positive and look for ways to realize the better future that we know is coming.

 

 

Stephen

April 15, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

This week, we entered the second week of our opening, after our two-week closure at the end of March. All three areas of our business are operating on a restricted basis and the fact that we are able to serve customers at all is positive news.  However, this does not come without great effort by those working extremely hard to make this a reality. The new environment we are living under places new challenges and demands on virtually everything we do.

 

I want to personally thank everyone who is working on site, from home, or in the community with our landscape crews.  Your efforts are allowing our company to progress while many others are suffering greater hardship. I personally appreciate all that you do day in and day out.  Without you, this period would be even more difficult than it already is. 

 

We are keenly aware of the challenges we face in providing you and our customers with the safest possible environment. We are continually evaluating what changes we need to make to our facilities and policies to provide as safe an environment as possible.  I welcome any suggestions, ideas, or concerns you may have on how we can continue to improve. 

 

Despite the fear and anxiety we face each day, one thing is certain…spring will come. To be a gardener is to be an optimist.  Spring seedlings bring with them the promise of a brighter future and good things to come.  The same is true of the efforts we make today to keep ourselves, and our business, moving forward. 

 

Thank you again for your commitment, and hard work, to make a brighter future possible. 

 

Stephen

April 1, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

I want to bring you up to speed on our latest efforts to deal with the current business environment. As of Monday, despite some setbacks and challenges, we are open for business on a limited basis with new procedures in place to safeguard our staff and customers.  Needless to say, the present circumstances are extremely challenging and place tremendous pressure on all of us. 

 

Last week we received some welcome news with the passage of the CARES Act.  This federal relief program provides support for small businesses across the country, including Hicks Nurseries.  The act provides for loans to small businesses, such as ours, to help mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.  If certain conditions are met, the loans can be forgiven which provides direct relief to struggling companies.  We have already had conversations with our bank about how we can participate in this program as it is rolled out across the country.

 

As we look ahead it is clear that, given the unprecedented business environment, we will be facing a significant shortfall in sales for 2020.  This requires us to react with various actions including expense reductions, borrowing from lending institutions, and other initiatives to minimize the effects of this sales decline for the balance of the year.  Participating in the CARES Act loan program is one of several steps we will need to take to deal with obstacles before us.

 

Please note, Hicks Nurseries entered the year debt-free and with a solid financial foundation.  This positions us to better withstand the pressures we are now under.  However, we must enact measures to ensure that the deficit we face in 2020 does not put the company at risk in the long term.  I recognize that any plans we put in place involve sacrifice on everyone’s part.  We are working as hard as we can to balance the long-term viability of the business with the short-term hardships everyone is facing. Our commitment is to keep you informed as to the state of our company and what we are doing about it.

 

Over the past 167 years we have faced major challenges, civil war and depression among them. I am confident we will overcome this challenge as well. Hicks Nurseries is blessed with incredibly committed, talented people who are currently doing extraordinary things to keep the organization moving forward. I want to thank you all for your efforts, both seen and unseen, that you are doing on a daily basis to help us through these trying times.             

 

Stephen

March 27, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

As you may have heard, the governor has deemed horticulture an essential industry in New York State.  As a result, we have resumed limited customer facing operations beginning Thursday March 26 in Commercial Sales.  Retail and landscape operations will resume in a limited fashion beginning Monday March 30. 

 

Please note, the health and safety of you and the public is of utmost importance.  We are continuing our current safety procedures and introducing new ones to minimize the risk to you and our customers.  It is important that we all monitor our own health and follow the rules to prevent the spread of illness.  Anyone asked to work who is feeling ill, has any symptoms of COVID-19 or has concerns of disease transmission should not report to work.  If you are scheduled to work and are not comfortable doing so, please notify your manager and you will not be expected to come in.  Everyone needs to make the best decision they can for themselves, their families, co-workers, and customers.

 

As we resume limited operations, it will be with the minimum essential functions necessary to carry on our business.  Your manager will be notifying you of the upcoming schedule on a week-to-week basis.  The situation we are facing is unprecedented and is changing on a daily basis.  We are doing our utmost to maintain the organization and minimize the disruption to people’s lives, and I recognize that these decisions bring hardship for everyone.  It is my intent to manage the business so we can get through the current circumstances in a way that preserves the organization for all our staff in the long run. As we resume operations we will monitor the results and react accordingly. 

 

Lastly, I want everyone to know that I greatly appreciate all your efforts to help us get through these difficult times; together I am confident we can overcome these challenges.                                

 

Stephen

March 23, 2020

 

To all staff,

 

On March 16th, we announced that we would be closing our retail store and curtailing our commercial sales and landscape activities for two weeks.  We are currently one week into the two week period and I wanted to update you on where we stand. 

 

Based on all the uncertainty surrounding the current crisis, there is no way to know exactly how long the current decline in business activity will last. As of today, there are a number of actions being contemplated by government, at the state and federal level, that may soften the blow we are all experiencing.  We are waiting to make any decisions regarding our policies after March 29 until we gain some clarity over the relief options available. Regardless, we will be facing significant challenges under any scenario in the short to medium term.

 

Needless to say, the shutdown of our business at the very beginning of the spring season could not have come at a worse time for us.  We are currently evaluating how we might resume limited operations within the guidelines of the governor’s executive order.   As we make decisions about the future of our business, the safety of our staff, customers and community will be paramount.  

 

Our goal is to finalize and communicate our plans for next week by this Friday.  Please feel free to reach out to me, Karen or Nate if you have any questions, concerns, or feel we can be of assistance.

 

Be well and stay safe,

Stephen