LUMBERTON — Local restaurants owners are finding innovative ways to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic while looking to rebound after the coronavirus threat has ended.
Among them is Arnold West, who owns the Village Station and Arnold’s restaurants, both in Lumberton.
“Every day is a struggle,” he said. “… We do have a large carryout business, and we are very fortunate for that.”
Family-pack meals, which have enough food to serve four to six people, are helping the Village Station Restaurant navigate the new coronavirus, West said.
Since March 16, the Village Station’s sales are down by 93%, and sales at Arnold’s are down by 86%, he said.
But, West sees the setback as an opportunity to serve the people who go out daily to keep the community functioning and the people safe.
One way the restaurant is giving back is The Hot Dogg Cart located outside the Village Station Restaurant.
Essential personnel, such as first responders, postal workers and truck drivers, get a choice of two hot dogs or two corn dogs and a drink for free, West said.
“That’s just a small way that we can put back into our community and show them that they are the real heroes,” he said.
He is confident the restaurant and community will recover after the pandemic ends, West said.
“It’s a tragedy that has affected this small-business community, but we, as a whole, will stick together and pull through this,” West said. “Robeson County and our people are strong and have overcome so many obstacles in our path. This will be no different.”
When the pandemic subsides, he will begin searching and applying for small-business loans or money to help his businesses recover, West said.
“We will make a comeback, and we will be better than ever,” he said.
Your Pie, a brick-oven pizzeria that opened in November, also is getting creative in attempts to keep business up, owner Kevin Fraley said.
Two weeks ago, the restaurant began offering Take-and-Make pizza kits that come with pizza doughs and toppings for $30, he said. The kits are a direct result of the virus.
“It makes a great activity for the family,” Fraley said.
The restaurant also is pushing promotions on social media platforms to remind customers to eat local, he said.
The pizzeria will continue to be innovative in its approaches to outlast the pandemic, Fraley said.
“We’re actively making adjustments in our restaurant,” he said. “We plan on being here for the long run.”
Fraley declined to comment on the percentage of sales lost during the pandemic.
Takeout, curbside pickup and online orders can be made, he said. Deliveries can also be completed through DoorDash.
Fraley shared advice to other business owners.
“Make good, solid decisions about your business,” he said. “Stay focused on your customer.”
Cakes and Pastries closed its doors March 30 because of a decrease in business caused by the coronavirus, owner Bryan Britt said. The store will remain closed until April 17.
“Your business drops off a lot when you have something like this,” said Britt, who also is chairman of the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
The restaurant and bakery, located on Farringdom Street, saw a 50% loss in breakfast and lunch sales, he said.
“When that business fell off, we just had to cut back on hours and staff,” Britt said.
Most customers preferred to eat at the restaurant, he said. That business was eliminated after Gov. Roy Cooper issued his order on March 17 prohibiting dining in at restaurants and bars.
“It’s just really a lot of work having to abide by the new regulations,” Britt said.
So, closing the doors was the best option, he said.
Small-business loans are not in his plans, but he won’t rule them out completely, Britt said.
Britt encourages business owners to take advantage of opportunities like the small business-loans offered in the Paycheck Protection Program.
The program is part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed March 27 by President Donald Trump that offers loan forgiveness to businesses that use the money to cover costs of payroll, mortgages and rent utility within eight weeks after the loan is received. Levels of employees and compensation must remain the same during that time, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Britt plans to hire all 15 members of his staff back when the business reopens.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said of the recovery process. “… I’m very hopeful.”
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]