though businesses make it work and few,
if any, have had to close.”
TREASURE COAST BUSINESSES
THE GARDEN OF ESTHER
Esther Chin is a Vero Beach transplant
from Malaysia via New York City. She
operates a one-woman specialty gourmet
pasta business, The Garden of Esther, selling
her one-of-a-kind products either via
the Vero Beach Farmers Market or directly
to a growing contingent of small, local
She launched her business at the farmers
market in 2018 and at first faced an
uphill battle to educate customers about
the wholesomeness of her pasta.
“I used recipes to inspire and educate
them,” she said. “I used a lot of Facebook
ads online. I’ve been at the market for
three years now. It’s an amazing, supportive
community to live in, and despite the
pandemic, I owe a lot of my success to the
Chin rents commercial kitchen space to
create her all-natural products, but in the
future wants to have her own space. She
was already working with FSBDC at IRSC
consultant Frank Fink on a new business
plan to expand when the pandemic hit.
“I lost a lot of money during the first
months of COVID. Restaurants weren’t
buying, so I went looking for the college’s
help on how to pivot in my business.
“Eventually, I would like to open my
own retail store, and I will need a budget
for that,” Chin said. “My mentor told me
about small business assistance grants
he applied for me. Frank made it a very
easy, smooth process that saved me a lot
of time. I probably wouldn’t have done it
without his help.
“I was doing pretty well in 2021, but
the $10,000 grant will allow me to expand.
Now’s the time for my own space. I’ve
reached the ceiling where I am now.”
Chin received her grant money in recent
weeks and is looking for a new location for
WOOD N SPOON
Helen and her chef husband Michael
Wood were operating two branches of
their breakfast and lunch restaurant and
were about to open a third location when
the pandemic hit. The third site was immediately
put on hold for several months,
Helen Wood recalled.
As well as operating out of the Vero
Beach Museum of Art and their original
restaurant location on Oslo Road, the
Woods wanted to open space at Royal
Palm Pointe. Yet, just as they waited for
their final inspection, state restrictions put
the expansion on hold until May 2020.
State restrictions meant most of the
staff couldn’t work, Wood said. Most of
their employees made arrangements to
live with friends or family, she said.
“People understood,” she said, “ we had
to do all we could to save the business.”
It wasn’t until July that the business approached
normalcy, although the Museum
of Art is closed until 2022. The Woods
survived by pickup and delivery services.
“We received $5,000 and I used it to pay
off our purveyors,” Wood said.
“Indian River County staff approached
us about applying for a small business
assistance grant. We didn’t know about
what grants were available. We were afraid
it might be a scam. It came at the perfect
time. The PPP program had helped us stay
open before, but once that ended, we
had to juggle finances, especially for our
“Now it’s definitely not a normal season
but it’s better than last year. Numbers for
March improved year over year, but we’re
still down overall. But we’ve been grateful to
do all we can. We serve very healthy, fresh
food and have a lot of senior customers who
appreciate it’s all homemade and clean.”
NOTIONS & POTIONS
Beryl Muise celebrated five years in business
in late 2020, but it was a rough year
for her one-woman retail store, Notions &
Potions in downtown Fort Pierce.
Muise describes her store as an artisan
boutique that sells mostly locally made
candles, jewelry, natural dog treats and
clothing, purses, T-shirts. She has a candle
bar where patrons can book a party and
create their own fragrances.
Notions & Potions was shut down for
almost two months last year. Muise was
able to adapt to the restrictions in creative
ways, including turning to Facebook to
market handmade face masks. She received
400 orders in three days. Volunteers
worked long hours to complete the orders.
Muise was able to partner with a fellow
downtown business, Varsity Sports, to use
its commercial embroidery machine to
stitch the masks.
Muise received a $5,000 small business
assistance grant and used it to pay her
rent. She said she didn’t find the application
too complicated, but that it took a
while to assemble all the required paperwork.
A county employee stopped by
personally to pick up a copy of her lease to
facilitate the grant.
“I thought that was super-awesome,”
She applied for the grant in September
and received her money in November, her
fifth anniversary in business.
Her retail business is able to operate fairly
normally, after capacity restrictions were
progressively eased through the second
half of 2020.
Business is super-slow,” Muise reported,
“definitely not as busy as pre-COVID, but I
have wholesale accounts that are keeping
me afloat.” v
Esther Chin, who began gardening when she
moved to Vero Beach in 2018, infuses the flavor
of the vegetables and spices into a wide range
of handmade pastas.
The Garden of Esther produces a cornucopia of colorful
artisan pasta products that are sold at farmers
markets and a growing cadre of local restaurants.