SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - With California reopening its economy, business owners across the state are working to find their footing.
"We've had to do a lot of shifting in our production," said Diving Unlimited International CEO Dan Drake. "We've had to make a lot of adjustments in the type of products that we manufacture to be able to keep up with demand."
This small San Diego business, known as a world leader in dry suits for more than 50 years, was close to shutting down early in the pandemic.
Diving Unlimited owner Dick Long applied in the first round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but was initially shut out of the funding.
Thanks to a news story and some ingenuity from a local bank, Long was able to secure a government loan through the program and save the jobs of his more than 50 employees.
"I sent a letter to Channel 10, and what's Channel 10 do, in one day right here, one day, they're talking to me. They put us on the air," Long said in a May 2020 interview. "The very next morning, the very next morning, I get a phone call from a community bank."
But to survive this past year where so much was unknown, some of how they did businesses needed to change.
"We're doing Zoom, Skype, more social media," Drake said. "Anything to be able to reach out and talk to our customers."
The result is a company that's thriving.
"This last year or so, we've gotten a ton of orders to come in, and we've been able to fulfill them," Drake said.
But what about their fearless leader who initially put his own money on the line to make sure his employees kept their jobs.
Long shared that the past year has been challenging. At the end of January, he tested positive for COVID-19.
"COVID-19 really hit me hard, and it caused blood clots, and in turn, they now have a zipper in me where they took out 30 inches of my intestines," Long said. "Not only that, but being a type two diabetic for years, the circulation in my foot went away, and so we had to amputate."
Things were so dire, the 84-year-old said he wasn't sure if he'd survive.
"I called my wife up in the middle of the night and said, ‘Sweetheart, I'm not going to make it.’"
During that time of worry for his health, Long decided to step down from the company he started more than 50 years ago.
"Mother nature told me, Dick, it's time to stop," Long said.
But he leaves knowing his employees are in good hands and on track for big things.