March 16, 2020

NEWSLETTER Pandemic begins/travel to Holland

March 16th, 2020

Dear Friends, Customers and Associates.

For the past five months, Julie and I have been carefully planning a trip to the homeland of my father. We were scheduled to leave March 10 for the island of Sicily. Our first stop was to the city of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and the next morning we were to take a flight to Palermo, Sicily. I spent an inordinate amount of time organizing side trips to ancient ruins, bookmarking great restaurants and just imagining life in Sicily. The Saturday before our trip, we found out that the flight to Sicily had been canceled. The coronavirus had put the entire country of Italy in a lockdown situation and our relatives advised we stay away. This was to be a five-week trip: three weeks in Sicily and two weeks back in the Netherlands. The day before the flight we still had no idea what we were going to do. Julie and I decided that since we had paid for our flights and hotels for two weeks we should just get on the plane and fly to Amsterdam and see what was happening. We had a great flight and spent a pleasant night in the Hilton Hotel at the airport. In the middle of the night Julie woke up and watched the president's speech.  From his exact words, she determined that if we did not return to America that day, we would not be able to return from the Netherlands due to travel restrictions. She started packing our bags and saying we had to leave. I insisted we stay and see what was happening in the world. So here we are in Holland spending five weeks and observing the world in all of its uproar and confusion.

There is no doubt that these are extremely trying times around the world. As a retail business owner,  I can truthfully say that I have not seen such a paralysis of the buying public since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Everything has come to a complete halt. For the most part our customers are musicians and at the moment their income streams have been shut down. All gatherings, performances and venues have been shuttered. The general public has been reverting to hysteria, stripping the shelves of grocery stores and hoarding goods in the anticipation on an entire lockdown. Indeed, these are "the times that try men’s souls!".

So, what can be done, how can we respond, what is next? As during those tumultuous days following September 11th I say we act with determination and resilience NOT fear and paralysis. Even in uncertain times life goes forward. There is no doubt that business at Bernunzio‘s has slowed down. People are not thinking about musical instruments, they are not thinking about playing music. Their minds are set on more basic needs. Many businesses have laid people off but all of our employees are musicians who get a good portion of their income from playing out. That income has vanished. When faced with an option of laying people off and cutting back hours, or selling things at a bargain price in order to keep going we feel there’s no choice. I have instructed Ryan to cut prices on instruments across the board. We will offer five instruments this week at a "Dutch" auction. The price will be reduced each day of the week until the item sells. We can get through this if we work together, if we understand we are all on the same side, some good will come from this crisis. Resilience is the key word. 

The picture of me in a mobility cart is My Story of resilience. For years I have had degenerative back disease and my mobility has decreased to the point where I am unable to walk more that 20 yards. I thought my opportunity for travel was over. My dear wife, Julie, would have none of this. She found a way for me to be able to travel again, to be able to visit museums, concerts and historic sites with my little orange buggy. It was a hard pill for me to swallow and truthfully I’ve never wanted to be dependent on anyone or admit that I had difficulties. I am now seeing the world from a different perspective, but I am still seeing the world. While many people are hunkered down in their houses their lives have not come to a screeching halt. There is music to play, there are instruments to buy and life goes on. Use this time to get to know yourself and your family again. If you are in lockdown, check on your neighbors, check on your friends. We are in this together and we will come out on the other side as a stronger people.

Best regards,

John and Julie Bernunzio