As the COVID-19 risk continues to increase, local businesses in Greenville and surrounding areas are left to figure out their approach to the situation. Some business owners have chosen to keep their businesses open and apply a takeout and delivery method, while others have no choice but to wait out the virus.
On March 17, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order to close dine-in services at restaurants and bars in the state of North Carolina. Restaurants, bars and stores around the city of Greenville were left to figure out if they wanted to temporarily close their business or continue to stay open, and if so, how?
Various businesses around the area have chosen a takeout and delivery method for their products, allowing for customers to place their orders online or over the phone, and have them either come pick up their order or have it delivered to their doorstep.
One of these businesses is Smashed Waffles, located at 718 Dickinson Ave. The business has chosen to stay open and offer customers their waffles and coffee through pick-up and doorstep delivery, Hunter Harrison, the co-founder of Smashed Waffles, said.
Harrison expressed his concern for the current situation that his business as well as other local businesses are currently in, but believe that Smashed Waffles is better prepared due to their original delivery service, and are offering help to other businesses choosing this option as well.
“The fortunate thing about us specifically is that we are kind of built on delivery. We are feeling ripple effects no doubt, but I think that we’re a little bit better prepared to weather the storm of something like this,” Harrison said. “I do think that a lot of local restaurants are really having to band together to figure out solutions. We’ve offered help as much as we can. I think a lot of other restaurants are starting to embrace the things that we’ve been doing for a little bit of time and hopefully that will help them.”
According to Harrison, the Greenville community has been very supportive of Smashed Waffles and other local businesses, but unfortunately, these places are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 situation.
Harrison said he wants community members to remember to continue to support local businesses and remember that local restaurants are following the health department’s guidelines for handling food safely.
“Most of the processes that the health department requires us to do are geared around eliminating things like this already, so we're already set up to be a clean environment and be a safe environment for food handling. Everything that we do, we use gloves and sanitize,” Harrison said. “I think being mindful of that, knowing that we provide a safe environment for eating and delivery. To me, it’s probably safer than trying to go out to the grocery store surrounded by a bunch of people.”
Parking spaces across the street from Smashed Waffles have been designated for customers who choose to pick up their waffles and coffee, so they don’t have to come inside the establishment. The company is also doing doorstep delivery, Harrison said.
Harrison said that he believes that the community has done a great job in continuing to purchase products from their company as well as spreading the word on social media, which supports the business and their employees.
“I really want to make a point to mention that the community locally has been so supportive. The things that people have been doing and posting and sharing, we have been really humbled and blessed by banding together to support a lot of the local restaurants. I think the people that are continuously choosing to support people have been really beneficial,” Harrison said.
Sup Dogs’ owner Bret Olivero shared his thoughts on the current situation, saying that he believes everyone in the community will be negatively impacted. He stressed the importance of business owners keeping their employees in mind first.
Olivero believes that while supporting restaurants through takeout and delivery service is important, the best steps community members can take is to follow the health guidelines issued by the government.
“I think the main thing that everyone needs to do is follow the rules and guidelines given from the government, and we can put this behind us, because no restaurants will be making any real money until this virus is behind us,” Olivero said. “The only way to beat the virus is to listen to the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) and the government and follow all procedures. The restaurant business only thrives if people are out and about, and the only way people are out and about is if the country beats the disease.”
Both Sup Dogs locations closed on March 16, and will remain closed until March 30, when Olivero is going to reevaluate the situation. He said that during this time, his staff is being paid in full. Olivero said they are potentially looking to do a takeout service but won’t make that decision until the two weeks are up.
Olivero believes that this time will be rough on Sup Dogs as well as other businesses in uptown Greenville and around the area, but he is optimistic for the future of his business and the city when the COVID-19 situation comes to an end.
“My expectations are for it to suck for a long time, and then when we get on the other side of this thing, I think we’re going to be rocking and rolling. I am very optimistic about the future of Sup Dogs, I am very optimistic about the future of downtown Greenville, but I think it’s going to be incredibly rough in the short term. I think in the long term, everyone is going to be just fine,” Olivero said.
Olivero wants to remind the Greenville community to remember Barstool’s Best College Bar competition and vote for Sup Dogs on Twitter. Sup Dogs made it to the top 8 and voting for the next round started Tuesday at 3 p.m. The results for this round will be announced today at 3 p.m.
“Please vote for us (Sup Dogs). We’re down to the final few rounds. Please, everybody go on Twitter and vote for us. If you take a look, we won Best College Bar in America last year, and our product is better than ever, food drinks, DJ Diesel and Shaquille O'Neal at our Doggy Jams, which is rescheduled for Oct. 24. So, we have an awesome shot to win Best College Bar in America again, but we need everyone’s vote on Twitter,” Olivero said.
Of course, it’s not just restaurants that are being negatively affected by COVID-19, as bars in uptown Greenville were forced to close on March 17 and remain closed during this time.
Grace Jensen, a junior communications major who works at Fifth Street Distillery and Annex as a bartender, shared her thoughts on the situation as she is currently out of a job.
“I am really upset we had to close down Fifth Street Bar and Annex which is where I work along with a lot of other students who rely on the bars and restaurants in this town as their source of income. I’m hoping this all ends soon and we can go back to normal,” Jensen said.