Stories from our community: Part seven


For the past year, the reporters at The Union have continued to cover the individuals and businesses who work through the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for them.

This is a continuation of a collaborative piece. Parts one, two, three, four, five and six are available to read.

Laurie Brandt stands at the counter of The Red Car Brewery with some of the merchandise she sells Thursday, Sept. 9. She has owned her business with her husband for 21 years, facing changes that had to be made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elizabeth Basile/The Union

3:30 p.m. | Red Car Brewery, Torrance

By: Elizabeth Basile

In the late afternoon, about 3:30 p.m., Red Car Brewery is between the lunch and dinner rush. Some people visit the bar, several monitors show the Dodgers playing the Cardinals while rock music fills the open room.

Laurie Brandt has owned and operated Red Car Brewery with her husband Bob in Torrance for 21 years. Like other businesses during the pandemic, theirs faced changes due to COVID-19.

“COVID has definitely made a huge impact, in regards to our outdoor patios, we have always been, the patios were never that utilized especially, only in summertime and now the patios seem like the place to go,” Brandt said.

Brandt said that the transition to outdoor dining has made a positive impact on their business.

“So basically, the last week I probably received five calls pretty much every week in regards to doing parties outside because people want to get together and gather. So, that’s been good” Brandt said.

Even though Brandt has seen the benefits that the changes have had on business, she also said her customers and employees have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“But you know, COVID has also, I mean, it’s been a long road. A lot of fatigue, I think from guests, a lot of fatigue from staff members, you know and it’s been hard…” Brandt said.

While the pandemic has proven a challenge for operating Red Car Brewery, Brandt said that the new practices have proven beneficial for customers.

“I think it’s made people think outside the box, and that’s what’s super important,” Brandt said.

8 a.m. | Arroyo Residence, Inglewood

By: Tramarr Boudroux

As the sun rose in the morning, Isiah Arroyo arrived at his front door after going out for his morning jog.

“It’s important to stay in shape,” Arroyo said, as he grabbed the towel that was hanging from his waist to wipe off the sweat dripping down his face.

Arroyo served in the military for five years and has been deployed all around the world. But during the pandemic, his military assignment changed course.

“As we reached Australian waters we were told to turn back around and come home,” Arroyo said.

When first told to turn around, Arroyo said no one knew what COVID-19 was or how it spread.

“We was locked down at the military base in San Diego for about four to five months because we didn’t know how the city would look,” Arroyo said.

Being trapped around the same people for months would start to affect some of Arroyo’s peers mentally.

“No one knew each other, we all were kinda thrown together. People say hello but no one really talks enough to get to know each other, everyone is really distant,” Arroyo said.

Although out of lockdown, Arroyo says his plans have been changed due to COVID-19 and the new regulations because of it.

“I was planning on going back to school but now I’m hesitant because colleges are starting to require the vaccine. I’ve seen people take the vaccine and it really messed them up, I’m talking about life-changing issues. So I am against getting the vaccine, as of right now at least,” Arroyo said.

The doors to Zuniga's Liquor stand open to the public on Monday, Sept. 6. Owner Hector Zuniga, who went from fast food cashier to business owner, says the store is known for snacks, drinks and tobacco. Jesus Chan/ The Union
The doors to Zuniga’s Liquor stand open to the public on Monday, Sept. 6. Owner Hector Zuniga, who went from fast food cashier to business owner, says the store is known for snacks, drinks and tobacco. Jesus Chan/The Union

12:23 p.m. | Zuniga’s Liquor, Torrance

By: Jesus Chan

The past year provided many families with uncertainty as many went into lockdown; some, such as Zuniga Liquor owner Hector Zuniga, had to continue their everyday duties.

When COVID-19 first started, Zuniga was hit with a new reality. A new way of handling business would take over as he would have to face customers in person and risk his health as if playing a game of roulette.

“It was scary at first; for me, the difficult part was not knowing whether a customer had the virus. Not knowing whether or not I’d been infected did have a toll. But my family kept me going in to work. They needed me to help out. I hope I did right by them,” Zuniga said.

Mandates and policies were in place for guests who entered the liquor store, something that Zuniga is grateful for.

“Safety was my top priority. Having mask mandates, social distancing markers, along with the plexiglass we had always had are main variables I’d attribute to being safe,” Zuniga said.

While waking up in the early mornings to open the store, Zuniga has seen signs of precautions becoming the norm, that would bring in a new wave of hope.

“I see more and more people come into my store more compliant with guidelines and regulations. Before, it was not a lot, but some were very rude. The best thing to do is protect yourself to protect your loved ones,” Zuniga said.

Sally Chun, in her 40s, scans a game into the Bros Gaming Shop computer system Tuesday, Sept. 7.
Sally Chun, in her 40s, scans a game into the Bros Gaming Shop computer system Tuesday, Sept. 7. The shop was able to stay open during the start of the pandemic due to it’s repair operations in store. Nicholas Broadhead/The Union

12:49 p.m. | Bros Game Shop, Torrance

By: Nicholas Broadhead

Over the last 12 years, the Bros Game Shop has bought and sold video games, accessories and other kinds of electronic goods to gamers in the Torrance area.

Sally Chun, owner of the store, first opened her store’s doors with her husband after helping a friend with their game shop.

“After a few years we branched out on our own,” Chun said.

When the pandemic first began, however, Chun’s business was able to do something many others couldn’t at the time, stay open.

“Since we do repairs, we are an essential business, so we were able to make appointments for people to drop off their

units should they need repair,” Chun said.

As people began staying home at the start of the pandemic, Chun said there was an increase in video gaming. Because of this abundance of playing, consoles began to face technical issues that would less likely happen if individuals went to work or school.

“They did wear down and we did see an increase in repairs,” Chun said.

The store would continue to do repairs until fully reopening in summer 2020. As the store opened back up, Chun was able to sell a majority of her inventory, but in turn, it caused a new problem.

“We noticed we were having a hard time restocking items and so when that happened, sales kind of slowed down because we didn’t have anything to sell,” Chun said.

Chun says that her business has fared better than many others during this pandemic. Although the country has been facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, she believes she will be alright during this spike.

“I’m confident my business will fare well, we will be ok,” Chun said.

Editors Note: A second sentence caption was made to the final photo on Oct. 7 at 1:13 a.m.

A full caption was added to a photo and the headline was updated for clarity Oct. 7 at 1:22 a.m.