Previous Best of the County Winners Share Their Thoughts on Business During Covid-19

Best of Marin County Fitness and Recreation winner 101 Surf Sports

2020 has presented everyone with difficult and unusual circumstances, especially business owners. Given that the people behind these ventures are a big part of what makes Marin so great, we wanted to check in with them to see why — in spite of massive challenges — this is still the place for them and what being a business owner here is like.

Arts and Entertainment

Book Passage (2018)

We are so lucky to be in Marin County! The people who live here love good books, they appreciate meeting authors, and they are wonderfully supportive of our store. The reputation of Marin residents is now recognized nationwide and publishers rush to send authors to our community. It’s a wonderful place to be. Many of our customers have stepped in to help us in ways we would have never dreamed possible.

Marin MOCA (2019):

People in Marin really value artwork and they take the time and effort to learn more about it and support local artists. This is a very encouraging place to have an arts and culture-related business. There is a lot we can do to feature artists-of-color and to develop partnerships with local organizations who can recommend the best way to deliver art-related opportunities to diverse communities.


Camp Edmo (2019):

With the pivot we made this year to online programming, we can be anywhere. Marin was the location of our very first EDMO camp and we’ve had a physical presence at schools in Marin since 2004. This year we had hoped to expand our program and open an in-person camp program in San Rafael. 


Northwoods Bowmen’s Club (2018)

Operating an archery range in Marin is a great experience. We all passionately invest our free time into maintaining it. We appreciate Marin Magazine for mentioning us now twice as it has had a huge impact on the quantity of people knowing we exist. Our ultimate goal now is to compel the county leadership to allow us to have an outdoor archery range, similar to several other counties surrounding Marin, so that we would be able to introduce the community to the true experience of archery.

Sea Trek (2018)

We are fortunate that we are an outdoor business and that people feel comfortable doing activities outdoors. We understand the greater challenges that indoor businesses have and wish them the best.

Sailing Education Adventures (2018)

Marin County families are the best! They have stuck with us through all the changes with such good humor and grace and understanding. We can take fewer children and many were shut out this year, but there are children on the bay, out in the wind and weather, sailing!

Marin Rowing (2018)

What we love about Marin is the community. We share a small space and feel that everyone is looking out for one another. Our membership has looked out for us. Being the Education Director at this organization, I understand the stresses that our community business owners have gone through. It has not been easy and I acknowledge them all for doing such good work. I do think Marin will come out of this because of the efforts of our small business owners. They are thinking outside the box and finding a way to keep things moving, and the County is doing what it can to support the gray area.

101 Surf Sports (2019):

We are lucky to live in such a tech-driven market. We have to be grateful and appreciative that we are being spared a lot of pain given how Bay Area tech companies are doing so well. With that said, we feel the pain of many friends in the hospitality industry. The focus of the pain on one sector of our economy is so unprecedented, it leaves us struggling to comprehend what it would be like to be in their shoes.

NOW Power Yoga (2019)

We can’t wait to see everyone and keep our strong yoga family and community going. Through challenging times, I have stayed positive and strong and have taught 97 days in a row and won’t stop until we open — the turnout has been phenomenal. We have encouraged clients to stay healthy with us as we make it through this chaotic journey together. 

SeaPlane Adventures (2018)

We are the last remaining commercial seaplane operator left in the entire state of California, a state that was once rife with seaplane companies (the original ferry across San Francisco Bay was by seaplane in the 1920s!). I was very afraid this historic business was going to die on my watch. But I think we have made it, thanks to the support of the local community who have been enthusiastically flying with us since we re-opened. However, we are not out of the woods yet and Marin County is not making it any easier.

North Bay Aquatics (2018)

My wife and I have lived here our whole lives. Being able to live and work in the community doing what I like to do makes me feel blessed.

China Camp

Friends of China Camp is immensely grateful to the Marin community for having a place in its heart for China Camp and the resultant volunteer and financial support that the park receives. A heart-felt thank you from all of us at Friends of China Camp.

YogaWorks (2019):

Marin is a fantastic place for a business, especially one centered on yoga. People are friendly, warm, and open-minded. And with so many people dedicated to wellbeing, Marin is the perfect place for YogaWorks. Plus the natural beauty of Marin provides endless options for outdoor yoga, which is so special. While we love our indoor studios, we love taking yoga outside, too. There is nothing like practicing yoga on Angel Island, in the Marin Headlands, or at Muir and Bolinas Beach. Our Larkspur studio has just reopened with classes under a big tent with a gorgeous view of Mt. Tam. We’re always inspired by Marin!


Poet and the Bench (2019)

Many customers reached out to share their support and encouragement. We felt their love and it kept us going. It has been heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from our customers — knowing they would be there on the other side of this — as well as the fundraising efforts of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce. And while it’s been written and spoken many times and in many ways, small businesses like ours need all the help we can get, especially during these uncertain times. We never take for granted the support. Shop small!

Marin Fashion (2019)

Support from my family and children has been instrumental in getting me through these difficult times. So I’m thankful to all who have shown me great compassion to make sure I’m doing well. Personally, I’ve owned similar types of businesses in other parts of the Bay Area, but neither experience has been like this. The kindness and community here is unlike others, which makes me so proud to call Marin home and my place of business.

Viva Diva Boutique (2019)

The one thing that kept me going through this dark time was the total dedication, love, concern and true friendship of my amazing community and incredible customers. This pandemic is going to destroy our darling Marin County downtown districts. San Rafael had only just recently come into its own with amazing new bars, breweries and restaurants — not to mention its development toward a new, cooler small-town vibe. I ask our Marin residents to please shop it’s small downtown boutiques, support local restaurants and help our towns as we try to resurface from this total catastrophe.

Famous 4 (2019)

My hope, as a major producer of all public events in Mill Valley, is that locals will continue support Mill Valley businesses, not just my own. Some regular customers have been showing up to visit and shop, but lack of foot traffic and people shopping online — when they could be helping their local shop owners survive — is a low point.

Moonstruck Fine Jewelry (2019):

We are so lucky to be where we are and to have the support we do. For starters, we have an active and committed Chamber of Commerce that has been going above and beyond to support the small business community. And who could be more supportive and interested in our well-being than residents of Mill Valley? Makes it easy to remember that yes, all this will pass and life will go on — hopefully, better and more thoughtful than before.


Pizza Antica (2018)

We’ve been on a constant roller coaster, so many ups and downs. Of course, going dark and letting go of our entire team was tough — one of the most devastating things we have had to do. Luckily, we were able to obtain a small business loan, which allowed us to bring back some of our staff. As we reopen, we are able to add more employees. The highs are when we’re allowed to add services, like outdoor dining. But it has been challenging to communicate with the public about our services and hours.

Tony’s Seafood (2018)

The patience and kindness from customers that just miss Tony’s Seafood and miss being in the Hospitality Industry environment is a high point. So is the glow and joy that the staff at Tony’s Seafood has shown just in returning to work. We are grateful that so many of our staff members returned with the ambition to get involved in the ever changing puzzle that is the “new” service industry.

Tamalpie (2018)

I think the community gathering around us all was huge and I would not give up being here, in Marin, for anything. We are a strong and tight community. I appreciate all the other restaurateurs and people who helped us out. When we ran out of things, a number of restaurants shared what they had. It is a great community.

Rustic Bakery (2019):

I feel very supported by the community and how they have continued to order from us. Customers have been so generous with tips for the employees during shelter-in-place. And I am grateful that customers understand the sacrifice we are making to stay open to serve them during this time. In my opinion, Marin County is the best place to live and to own an organic bakery. There is so much support for what we are doing.

Iron Springs Pub and Brewery (2019)

The high we have experienced is the overwhelming outpouring of support we have received from our community. Unfortunately, we had to permanently close our San Rafael location, but our Fairfax location has been open through most of the pandemic. These are uncharted waters for all.  We are not confident that the reduced occupancy combined with the return of this pandemic and the looming power shut offs in the fall during fire season — which is predicted to be very bad this year — will allow businesses to survive. We are doing all we can to plan for these hurdles, but much of this is out of our hands. Our hope is that landlords will understand the dire situation we are all in and work with businesses to help with survival. We also need to see a change in the business interruption insurance policies that insurance companies are refusing to pay out on. 

Perry’s (2018 and 2019)

The high points have centered around how busy we have been for take-out, how grateful our customers have been that we are open and their display of loyalty, for which we are very, very grateful. A high point every single day is the incredible teamwork that our staff displays and how much they care about each other as well as taking great care of our guests. Probably the highest point during all of this has been reopening for outdoor dining and seeing the restaurant roar back to life! It is a privilege and an honor to have been able to open Perry’s in Larkspur almost five years ago. The historic building we occupy at 234 Magnolia is truly a special place, surrounded by redwoods in this cozy corner of Larkspur. I have lived in Marin for 45 years, in Larkspur for the past 23 of those years, and owning and operating Perry’s here is a dream come true.


Seeing our enormously talented and hardworking team that remained completely reorganize the restaurant service model has been a highlight. Because the supply chain was so fractured, we had a hard time getting raw ingredients delivered. So when fresh fish was unavailable, Poggio Chef Ben Balesteri went out on the bay and caught it himself. We grew a flourishing herb garden to guarantee a supply of fresh herbs and spices. For restaurants everywhere, business has been completely changed by both the health crisis and economic aftershocks. It’s continuing to change radically, even now that we are on the brink of reopening half of our inside seats.


By far the highest point has been rehiring our team and welcoming guests back onto our restaurant patios. It was very emotional yet strange to welcome everyone back in this totally new socially-distanced world, but so far everyone has been amazingly kind and ecstatic to be back! No one really knows what the future holds and it’s questionable whether there will even be a future for many restaurants, with so many that have yet to reopen. Some businesses will never reopen and that’s really sad. But for others, it will be a time of reinvention, innovation and new business models.

Picco (2019)

The high point for us is the excitement we receive from our guests when they know that we are still here to serve them. We are truly grateful to have the support of our community to get us through these challenging times and we look forward to learning what the future holds.

Lotus Cuisine of India (2019)

The high point has been that none of our employees were laid off. We are also working on opening a new location at the old Pizza Orgasmica location and opening Indian grocery store again. We feel fortunate that we are a quality community restaurant that has been here for 20 years. We have been giving back and we think that has generated goodwill — a customer even came from Modesto the other day. 


Boon Supply (2019)

We were fortunate to have been prominently featured on Good Morning America and The View on The ABC Network in their efforts to assist small businesses. This was a game changer for our company to stay afloat. We were also delighted we could raise over $20,000 for Covid and Black Lives Matter Fundraisers. We are lucky to live and work in this beautiful place where we can spend quality time outside during this very stressful time.

Adopt a Family (2019):

In March, we were able to quickly pivot the team to work from home. We never stopped delivering financial assistance for families in Marin County and we quickly started working alongside County partners in an effort to be efficient and encompassing. One of the thickest silver linings over the last few months has been the generosity and sincerity of our Marin Community. We have been forced to cast our largest safety net ever and the community has made that possible. With this support, our small team is supporting hundreds of families in Marin. 


Gina Risso Photography (2019)

I love working in Marin because there are so many great families! Not only are my current clients amazing, I’m in awe of all the wonderful people here who have stepped up and helped Marin City Cooperation Teams (MCCT) get going. It’s a brand new organization and before they could start raising money, they needed a website. So I helped them build a website and did some of the photography for it as well and then launched the fundraiser in mid-May. I photograph at least 5 families a week that are participating in the fundraiser and hope to continue throughout the summer. My goal is $10,000 and I’m confident we’ll get there.


Eva Claiborne Wellness (2019)

During this pandemic, I was very touched by how the Tiburon Chamber of Commerce and community pulled together and showed their support for the local businesses via fundraising, general outreach to keep all the businesses informed of next steps, and even offering pro bono legal advice. When I started my business in Tiburon 25 years ago, I knew that I was in a very special community — this pandemic has confirmed that there is nowhere else I would rather have my business. I am also very grateful for my landlord Laleh Zelinsky’s generosity.

Drawing Room Marin (2019):

We have been extremely blessed by our thoughtful and generous clientele, who are more like family after all these years. We have been humbled by their support. We fully intend to continue to be of service to our clients and community, even if it looks different than it used to. We love what we do and are committed to our clients and this industry.

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