Postcards From The Pandemic: 'Floor Girl' Encounters The Unknown

Jessie Bennett poses with the staff of Cleveland Hardwood Restoration
Jessie Bennett (bottom row, center) poses with her staff shortly before the coronavirus led to layoffs. [Cleveland Hardwood Restoration]
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Jessie Bennett, owner of Cleveland Hardwood Restoration, had just hired two additional full-time staff for her flooring business when the coronavirus crisis hit.

They and one other staff member have since been laid off — temporarily, Bennett hopes — due to a large number of jobs being postponed. She's now operating a company that's about half the size it was less than a month ago.

While Bennett is using the extra time to line up future business and spend more time with her three sons, the past few weeks have led to plenty of emotional peaks and valleys.

"Last week I was exceedingly anxious," Bennett said. "I was having difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating. This week, I'm doing better, feeling like I don't have a lot of control over what's happening and trying to be communicative on the jobs I do have."

Bennett shares how she's changed her business practices in the age of COVID-19. She said she now values high-fives and handshakes as not just frivolous gestures — but critical trust-builders between client and practitioner.

Not a Luxury

I typically have about four full time employees on the payroll. As it stands right now, I have three people left, you know, doing what we need to do to get people into their homes so that they can stay home.

These are not homes in which it's a luxury to have the floors done. They are, like, dangerous right now. You know, hundreds of nails sticking out, broken boards where your foot will go right through.

Jessie Bennett of Cleveland Hardwood Restoration sands a floor

Jessie Bennett started Cleveland Hardwood Restoration in 2011. The company grew to six full-time workers by January 2020. [Cleveland Hardwood Restoration]

Because I'm just putting one [worker] at a time in a home, the amount of work that they can complete on their own is not as much as if there were two to three people there. So we're making slow progress.

So far, everybody has been very understanding and grateful that we're there in the first place. If we had totally shut down, that would have put them in a really bad predicament.

For example, we have clients where their leases are coming up and they have to move. Or people who are moving here from another area of the country.

Questions Without Answers

The uncertainty of how to look forward and how to plan has been something that I've been thinking about every day.

Will we go into a recession? Will I be able to support the size company that I had previously? All of these things are unknown.

Lately, I have been giving a lot of virtual estimates and a lot of estimates via video chat.

When this is over, I will not take for granted the physical gestures of greeting and thanking people.

What we do is deeply personal. You know, we're working in their home.

To meet social distancing standards, the company is sending only one worker at a time to job sites. [Cleveland Hardwood Restoration] 

Being able to shake someone's hand or give a high-five — those are all extensions of being brought into their homes and being trusted with their project.

I want people to look at their hardwood floors and remember that 'floor girl' that they worked with however many years ago (laughs).

I love to do floors, but I also love to talk to people. I really miss that.

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