WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A pair of Williams College students are turning a joke into a serious effort to establish a small business.
Wyatt Khosrowshahi and Brennan Lee were on track to be completing their senior year right now, but each decided to take a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prospect of having to finish their college careers with remote classes.
But they kept their off-campus housing for the year, and they are making the most of it.
"We were both here this summer together, and it was interesting, because we had a group of friends who we knew were going to have to quarantine until they got two negative tests," Khosrowshahi said last week. "We were joking with them and saying, 'Because we're living off campus, we could deliver food to your doorstep.
"Then we said, maybe we can make a business out of this."
Thus was born Ephs Delivers, which looks to fill a service gap for both students and townies in the town of 7,700.
"Having been residents for a while, we realized there are not a lot of options for food delivery," Khosrowshahi said. "On top of that, we heard how much businesses on Spring Street were struggling, especially with the loss of students in the spring and having half as many students as usual around now."
The pair said national food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash do not have a strong foothold in the town, and, for students who are supposed to follow social distancing protocols, there is a comfort level in getting deliveries from fellow students.
Ephs Delivers charges a $5 flat delivery fee on orders up to $35. Over that, it charges 15 percent.
The service offers meal deliveries from local restaurants for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 8.
"When people are ordering, they say it's for takeout, and we go and pick it up," Lee said.
"It's not flagged on the order. The people at the restaurant know us when we come to pick it up."
The pair has done their marketing through social media and word of mouth and has a Google form that customers can access through the Ephs Delivers Facebook page to set up deliveries. They are looking to get a website up and going to provide another point of sale for their services.
In addition to contactless deliveries from local restaurants, Eph Delivers offers the same service for Stop & Shop, the local supermarket that was "out of bounds" for Williams students during September before the college adjusted its COVID-19 protocols earlier this month.
Lee said the pair are getting better at being "personal shoppers" the more experience they have.
"On the Google forms, we ask people to be as specific as possible," he said. "If [the order] is not too specific, we'll choose the least expensive version. But we also have all our customers' numbers. So we'll just text them and ask, 'Is this what you wanted?' We're getting faster and faster as we know the store better.
"Picking out produce hasn't been an issue so far. People will give us an instruction, like, 'Two of the ripest avocadoes you can find.' "
Grocery store orders are due by 2 p.m. each day, and Eph Delivers has the groceries delivered by 5. But Khosrowshahi and Lee said they can adjust the time if no one will be home to take delivery.
"We're in constant contact with them," Khosrowshahi said. "They'll say, '5 p.m. doesn't work. But can we do this other time?' Usually it's like 5:40, and we can keep groceries that long, so it's not an issue."
On the restaurant meal delivery side, the pair is looking to expand its service to include restaurants outside the immediate campus area and even into North Adams, where it is hoping to include the Trail House and Mingo's.
And Khosrowshahi and Lee plan to continue Ephs Delivers next year when they are finishing their course work in political science and biology, respectively.
Right now, the two say they can keep up with the demand by doing all the deliveries themselves, but expansion is not out of the question.
"At that point, we'd look to employ people and run the operational side ourselves," Khosrowshahi said. "It depends on what demand is looking like at that point.
"I personally think that even putting aside the pandemic, there's going to be demand for a food delivery service in Williamstown and at Williams College."
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BENNINGTON, Vt. — Southwestern Vermont Health Care's "Medical Matters Weekly with Dr. Trey Dobson" features Dr. David Veltre on April 7.
Veltre is a hand and upper extremity specialist at SVMC Orthopedics and Northern Berkshire Orthopedics. He discusses the most common conditions he sees in his practice and their treatments.
The weekly interactive medical-themed talk show hosted by Dr. Trey Dobson provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on health care, including topics like behavioral health, food insecurity, equitable care, and the opioid crisis.
The show is produced in partnership with Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV) and is broadcast on CAT-TV, Greater Northshire Access Television, Facebook Live, YouTube, and podcast platforms.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday urged Bay State residents currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations to find appointments before eligibility opens up to everyone 16 and older later this month. click for more