On a quiet block near 44th Street and Indian School Road, five families have spent years balancing their businesses and everyday lives.
Anne and Clinton Trauter, Julie Robinson, Aaron Reynolds and Elizabeth Oviedo live on the same block in Arcadia and have formed a sort of support group as a way to escape, provide an outlet from being cooped up at home, and continue to thrive.
Anne Trauter was born in Ohio and grew up in the Midwest before moving to Phoenix in 1988. She and her family have lived in Arcadia since 2014.
“My dad wanted to stop shoveling snow, and as much as we loved the Midwest, we love the Arizona weather,” Anne said.
She runs two businesses: Amalgamated Food Brokerage (AFB) and Nourish Kitchen. AFB is a marketing agency that represents food clients for restaurants, hotels and casinos, and Nourish makes grab-and-go salads and snack foods for AJ’s and other grocery outlets.
Anne opened AFB in 2006. Nourish, however, opened five days before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020.
AFB continued to stay open and running for the duration of the shutdown, but Anne found, along with many others, that revenue was low compared to what it usually was. Nourish was also able to stay open, as they were considered a vital service by providing food for stores.
“What my partners, employees and I learned is that we needed to be flexible and work hard even when it’s difficult,” she said. “We didn’t give up – make sure to count your blessings and then come back the next day and work hard again. In the future, we’re focused on growth.”
Anne said that it was both comforting and scary to navigate the changes and not let anyone down.
“We had to make it work, so we band together and supported each other and took turns having bad days or days where we lifted each other up,” she said.
Innovative Contractor Solutions (ICS) focuses on various aspects of commercial construction. Clinton Trauter started the business with his father in 1989 in Washington.
“I grew up around the construction business and worked in the warehouse, delivering materials, on job sites and eventually accounting,” Clinton said. “I tried hard not to be a part of it as a career, but the opportunity arose in 2012 to run this company.” ICS did not have to close during the shutdown.
“I feel very fortunate that we have developed a solid commercial customer base that has been booming. Since December 2020, we have seen the effects of growing,” Clinton said, explaining that the inability to acquire the quantities of material, delays in the supply chain to receive material and steady price increases are some of those effects.
“I think everyone has had a different experience with Covid and how it has affected how they pursue sales or operate their business,” he said.
Hearing friend’s ideas on how to do more with fewer people, time or face-to-face interaction and incorporate/test ideas to keep his own company progressing have helped Clinton and his team succeed. ICS plans to build and open a new office in South Mountain in the future.
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Julie Robinson is the owner of Juliet Le Fleur, a luxury wedding and corporate event florist. She is a fifth-generation florist and has been designing her creations for almost 40 years.
Robinson has called Arizona home since moving here from Michigan in 1988. She’s lived in Arcadia since 2005.
“The move was purely impulsive,” Robinson said. Like Anne, Robinson was tired of the Michigan winters.
When the pandemic made its way to Arizona, Robinson closed down her business and is in the fourth wave of postponing events.
“We are booking weddings again, but the effect on the flower industry was catastrophic. Prices have quadrupled, and the supply can’t meet the demand,” Robinson said. Despite that, she and her team are keeping a positive mindset.
Robinson said that each issue within her business taught her to stay flexible and become extra-creative with solution-finding.
“Things will always work out,” she said. “We will continue to work with the vast changes in our industry and keep creating gorgeous weddings and events.”
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Aaron Reynolds is the third-generation owner of Pylam Products, a supplier of dyes, pigments and colorants used in a multitude of products. Pylam has been in business since the end of WWI – over 100 years.
Originally, they were located in New York City in Manhattan. Twenty-five years ago, Pylam moved to Tempe. Reynolds has lived in Arcadia for the past four years and said that, thankfully, his business did not have to shut down during quarantine.
“Pylam fell under the umbrella of being an ‘essential business’ so we continued to work and serve our customers,” Reynolds said. “Amidst all of the craziness, shortages of goods and services, and nebulous scientific guidelines that constantly changed, we always stayed open. We quickly adopted many protocols to help maintain both worker and workplace safety.”
Reynolds explained that he reaches out to friends to get their views on the economy and day-to-day life.
“Communicating with everyone was integral to getting through the early stages and dealing with the incredible lack of clarity that was seemingly coming from all angles,” he said. The business remained flexible while maintaining a safe environment.
“Various aspects of running a business that have always been an afterthought are now common hurdles that have yet to resume their pre-pandemic elements,” Reynolds said, “but after 101 years, I feel as though Pylam is just hitting its stride. I like to think we have no less than another 100 or 200 years left to tackle.”
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Tom Reahard started Symmetry Software in 1984, and his daughter, Elizabeth Oviedo, runs the company these days. Symmetry provides payroll tax technology for software and payroll platforms.
“My dad spent months creating his first system. He teamed up with a company that had a small business accounting software product, and together they were the first small business payroll and accounting software for personal computers,” Oviedo said. The office is located in Scottsdale Airpark.
Oviedo and her family have lived in the Arcadia neighborhood for six years – she and her husband, Nick, attended schools in the area when they were younger.
“I love the strong sense of community that Arcadia offers. The first time I took dry cleaning to Kachina Cleaners, the owner recognized my last name and recalled that my husband’s grandfather had been a regular customer, dropping off his Phoenix police uniforms to be cleaned over 30 years ago.”
Even before the shutdown, Symmetry moved to a virtual format and had systems in place to accommodate remote work.
“This has made me a much more caring and empathetic leader. Understanding the unnerving weight of the pandemic and how it has impacted all of our employees differently has caused me to double down on our efforts to care for our employees as people before focusing on business results,” Oviedo said.
She also said that the neighbors on their block have always been encouraging.
“As business owners with small children, we often are on the same schedule leaving for work in the morning and coming home. Just waving to one another, knowing that we are walking similar paths encourages me to continue the hard work of leading a business while caring for my family,” Oviedo said.