Nurses, doctors, and grocery store employees are rightfully getting press and praise for the essential services they provide during the pandemic. But scores of workers in other fields also are showing up onsite every day to do their jobs.
“Of course, the medical community is amazing, unbelievable work they’re doing, you know the people working in supermarkets and the exposure that they have,” said Amy Sliva, a sales and service representative at the corporate headquarters of East Boston Savings Bank in Peabody. “A lot of people forget about the bankers, right? And the banks will not close because the banks have to be open in some manner or capacity.”
She and other Jews are doing their best to keep things going during the state shutdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Sliva, who has been working at the bank location for four years and lives in Peabody, loves giving the personal touch she’s usually able to provide in her role, but the pandemic makes this more difficult. “I usually like to greet my customers shake their hand, bring them to my desk, sit down, [say] ‘How can I help you?’” she said.
Now, her smile is hidden by a mask, she avoids handshakes, and she has customers sit 20 feet away from her while she processes their requests. “They understand that we care, you know, and there’s still a good sense to the transaction, but it’s different,” she said. “We kind of say to each other ‘This is such a strange new existence.’”
Marjorie Youngren, a Lynnfield-based team leader at William Raveis Real Estate, has realized just how much agents are still needed, even in a pandemic. “It’s funny. I mean, I don’t think of myself as essential, but I guess there really are a lot of people that need to move,” she said.
She said the local market is still “really hot,” so she still manages a team – armed with masks, gloves, and booties – that stages, photographs, shows, and sells houses. The sellers usually leave the house for a week while the showings happen, and they’re instructed to leave the lights on to minimize touching surfaces.
She has been able to switch most operations to Zoom or email, but she still meets new clients in person to get a socially distanced tour of their homes. “There’s just no two ways about it. You have to be with them,” she said. After that personal touch, future Zoom meetings are much more comfortable.
Steve Bornstein, who owns and manages University Fuel near Salem State University, tries his best to keep that personal touch while pumping gas. “We’re a full-serve, community sort of gas station,” said Bornstein, who has owned the station for over 20 years. He said conversations with customers used to involve sports, but now they’ve gotten more personal.
“It’s more genuine with people and it’s a closer feeling, which I’ve always had with my business and my family, my community,” he said. “That’s the best part about [the job], you know, just living and working in the same area my whole life.”
Bornstein, who lives in Peabody, said most of his employees have worked there for six or seven years, and he’s doing his best to protect them by providing sanitizer, gloves, and masks. His wife, Joan Bornstein, even hand-sewed masks for his employees and their families.
“I’m definitely concerned and cautious, and that extends to my family and … all the guys because we’re such a small group,” he said. “We’re family. We’re gas guys.”