Like many small businesses working to stay afloat during COVID-19, FLARE, an amenity electric shuttle service, has changed its business model to collect and deliver food instead of providing transportation to people.

Before the pandemic, FLARE – a new startup based in Arlington – was working to secure routes to connect neighborhoods with other neighborhoods and amenities.

FLARE was also set to provide rides to attendees of a number of local events when Virginia stay-at-home orders were made, forcing FLARE to temporarily halt its operations as planned.

While FLARE could have made the decision to store its two electric shuttles, co-founder and CEO Andres Delgado saw an opportunity to use FLARE to benefit the community in different ways.

FLARE first partnered with the Aurora Heights Civic Association on March 22 to collect and deliver over 800 lbs. of food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“We were astounded to witness the generosity of friends and neighbors in the Crystal City area to donate much-needed food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Over 800 lbs. of food collected filled an entire FLARE shuttle,”

said Delgado.

That partnership led to another opportunity to collect food donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

FLARE is currently working with the Crystal City Civic Association and Crystal City Business Improvement District to collect and transport food donations in 10 apartment buildings in Crystal City through April 30.

Undaunted by the challenges of quarantine, the FLARE team wanted to do more to help and found another opportunity.

Working with the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, FLARE delivered lunch for Virginia Hospital Center staff on Friday, April 10.

This was also an opportunity for a Columbia Pike-based restaurant, Café Sazón, to re-open temporarily to make lunches. The restaurant had made the decision to close completely on March 22.

“We are working to adapt our service in order to best serve the community around us. That is how this partnership with the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization came about, and we are glad to play a part in helping hospital workers who are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us. We are honored to serve them. This is a time for businesses and the community members to work together,”

Delgado added.

FLARE will be delivering lunches from another Columbia Pike-based restaurant, Rincome Thai Cuisine, to Virginia Hospital Center staff on Friday, April 17.

Delgado knows that everyday life will look different once the immediate threat of COVID-19 subsides, and that it may lead to other changes in his business model. However, he is optimistic.

“I think that the need for reliable, equitable, and sustainable transportation will only increase as life returns to a new normal. FLARE was created to connect neighborhoods together and provide that crucial last-mile transportation. We are all longing to be re-connected in person. Our shuttles will be there to help re-connect everyone,” 

said Delgado.

Delgado points out that small businesses in particular will be hard hit by the economic ripple effects caused by the quarantine, and that they will want to find different ways to incentivize the public to return.

“FLARE is an ideal partner for restaurants or shops that are looking to find ways to bring people back. What better way to do this than to create a transportation route with FLARE, to give patrons a way to get to your restaurant from the closest Metro stop without having to walk, or to give hotel visitors a way to visit other neighborhoods that aren’t easily connected by bus or Metro, or by needing to drive a car,”

added Delgado.

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