Why We Decided to Remain Open
Posted by Bob Davidson in From the Owners
This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing around some of the questions we have been receiving on the operational side-of-things in the midst of COVID-19.
One question that has been asked by customers, small business owners, and reporters on a number of occasions is “Why did we choose to stay open?” While some have asked in the context of either our safety or our profitability, most are more curious from an emotional and philosophical standpoint.
Of course, this was not an easy decision to make, and we spent the first two weeks debating considerably, especially as we weighed unemployment and loan options vs. the oh-so-fun act of watching ourselves lose money on a daily basis!
For a little perspective, things came to such a screeching halt in the first few days. We went from 135 total employees (between the two locations) to 25! Yep, that’s an 80% workforce reduction in a matter of 48 hrs! Naturally, we thought long and hard about closing. But ultimately, we decided to keep our doors open. And here’s why…
- We wanted to keep paying our staff. And while this seems like an obvious move, in the first couple of weeks, there were rumors that it could be more advantageous to restaurants and their employees if they shut down (which partially explains the vast amount of closed restaurants in the city the day the mandate went into effect). But many of our staff have family members or partners who are not able to work right now, so not only are they working to keep themselves afloat, but they are also, like many of you, holding up their families.
After numerous conversations with our employees, accountants and advisors, we decided to make our best attempts at generating additional takeout opportunities in order to stay open. But we did this with great uncertainty of what would happen.
- We wanted to provide healthy and thoughtful meals! Within the first few days, Anna and I went to the grocery store and realized that it was not only a chaotic experience, we were positioned to provide easier (and safer for that matter) access to thoughtful food options. This was a significant reason we entered the food business in the first place. We wanted people to experience new food combinations and to be able to do it in a casual and accessible way. And well, here we are – being forced to figure out how to make it as easy and accessible as possible!
- We wanted to stay open for the community and YOU! As a local business, we feel that it is important to pivot in order to best serve the community. And a few days into our “Shelter-in-Place” mandate, it became quite evident that there was an intangible (or less measurable) need that was emerging.
Again, we got into this business for the opportunities in hospitality and shared (food) experiences – what we imagined as a “shared spacial experience”. And then March 21st came…. and all of a sudden, those spaces seemingly disappeared.
But in all reality, they didn’t go away. Instead, the space(s) shifted. They shifted to homes, to Zoom calls, to the curbside, to hospitals, and to care facilities. All new spaces, but still people. People doing the best they can with a very uncertain and unknown scenario. We’re learning how to adapt to the shifting spaces, while also attempting to do what we love. And fortunately, while we have had to pivot significantly on our operational side, by all intents and purposes, we were positioned to shift a little easier than others. Our hearts are breaking for the restaurants of the world that largely depend on liquor sales or whose dining experience doesn’t as easily lend itself to takeout options.
Thanks to YOU, we have been able to increase in our sales and volume week over week. And while our numbers are still down overall, we have been able to bring back around 60 more of our staff since the beginning of “Shelter-in-Place.” We look forward to the day we can fully reopen and bring our entire team back on. But in the meantime, we’ll take it!!
This series is written and maintained by Bob Davidson, who is the co-owner of Blackberry Market. His wife, Anna Davidson, is the other half and the “true boss” and primary operator. Bob’s prior occupation was a Creative Producer at a branding and strategic communications agency (responsible for Blackberry’s brand). As you might guess, Bob now oversees most of the writing, branding, and communication needs at Blackberry.