Company expects a big increase in work in the summer, so instead of layoffs it is paying its employees to do volunteer work.
Mike and Linda McCreary started Baymeadows Movers in 1996 with three men, one truck and a 10-by-20 self-storage unit.
Within two years, they increased to 10 men and four trucks.
In 2002, the McCrearys built their first office-warehouse at 6419 Philips Highway and added a second warehouse in 2006, comprising a total of 36,000 square feet of storage space.
Then came the Great Recession of 2008. Baymeadows Movers had grown to 50 employees before retreating to about 30 after the economic downturn.
Now comes COVID-19, and the McCrearys’ sons Michael, 40, and Chris, 38, are setting the business path for the 30-employee company, Baymeadows Moving and Storage Inc.
“Instead of laying off employees we are promoting them to do volunteer work and maintenance around the buildings, cleaning, painting, fixing things, anything we can to keep our guys’ hours,” said Michael McCreary.
“Great employees don’t walk through that door every day so you don’t want them to seek other employment. Once the pandemic goes away and summer comes, we expect a big increase in work and we want to make sure that staff is in place,” said Chris McCreary.
They covered employee hours by paying them to volunteer at the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, serving low-income residents in Jacksonville’s Beaches communities, and at the Feeding Northeast Florida food bank.
Chris McCreary said those organizations had to furlough many of their older volunteers during the pandemic.
Before COVID-19, the moving business was booked solid in March and then slowed in April. Serving as a vendor for the Supervisor of Elections helped to "give us money to float us through April,” he said.
McCreary said Baymeadows Movers is at 80% capacity in its 700 vaults for storing customer goods in the warehouse. It is running at about 30-40% of its typical moves, down from eight-10 a day to three or four.
“May will be a big telltale of what the business will be like. Normally May is a big month when business ramps up,” he said.
McCreary said some customers canceled and others postponed moves.
“Then other customers want to make it happen,” he said.
The company takes precautions by sanitizing equipment and social distancing. It provides gloves, masks and foot coverings for its employees.
Baymeadows Movers is a full-service company with packing as part of the service. “People have not said they don’t want us to pack,” Chris McCreary said.
Staff also has an option if it is concerned about personal safety.
“We did decline a job for a customer who had passed from COVID-19 in a retirement community. We asked our staff if anybody would volunteer to do the move and the staff declined,” Michael McCreary said.
Baymeadows Movers has adapted to the pandemic like other moving companies by performing virtual surveys of contents to quote job pricing. The company plans to continue virtual quotes, especially for jobs that are at a distance.
Baymeadows Movers staff members “normally like to go and see the contents we need to move and maintain a personal touch with customers,” said Chris McCreary.
The pandemic has led them to “invest a lot of money in advertising,” said Michael McCreary. “The same thing happened in 2008 when the market crashed. We put our money into advertising to promote our business.”
The company is associated with North American Van Lines, with the ability to move items anywhere in the world. National companies work with local service providers.
The Baymeadows Movers plans may include expanding the shipping and receiving operations but not increasing the number of staff on trucks except for long hauls.
“As far as employment, when you have a large staff, it’s hard to keep quality control so we would like to keep our business at a quality level than try to increase our numbers,” said Chris McCreary.
Baymeadows Movers has “become just as much a logistics company as a moving company,” he said. It handles shipping, receiving, storage and delivery for companies like Comcast and UF Health.
The sons grew up working in the company and are transitioning to take over. Their parents take one to two weeks a month away from the business.
“The hard part will be to replace our mom, she is the money person, the brains behind the operation,” said Chris McCreary.
“We will search for an office manager with a CPA background, somebody we can trust.”
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