At this point last year, it had just become a running joke that 2020 was a burning dumpster fire of a year, and we all looked forward to 2021 being better. In some ways it has, in some ways it hasn’t. There was not some magical moment at the stroke of midnight on January 1st that turned everything around. We certainly didn’t foresee a late summer in Saxapahaw where both the General Store and the Eddy would be closed for nearly a full week of dinner service, but that’s where we are. Will we be okay? Yeah, we’ll be okay. But we also need to exercise an overabundance of caution, and by “we”, I mean not only restaurants in Saxapahaw, but the entire service industry. This means taking care of our own— physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Bojangles recently announced that it would be shutting down most stores for two days to give employees time to rest. Many Starbucks are struggling to keep their doors open regular hours. We’ve had multiple distributors who have had to adjust their delivery schedules, and have had to cut back on routes due to staffing issues. Summer is when our industry is supposed to rake in the money it will need to survive the slow months of winter. So what’s going on? Lots of things. Truthfully, more than I could adequately cover here, but I’ll do my best.
Looking at the comments section of social media (sometimes a dangerous thing) whenever a restaurant posts notices about schedules changing suddenly that you see people trying to narrow things down to a single suspect, but life is much more complicated than that. Especially now, there’s enough fear and uncertainty for everyone to have a little piece of the pie with more to share. The pandemic has affected us all in different ways. It has made a lot of us rethink how we live, how we work and how we relax. At this point, every single one of us has been directly affected by this plague, even if it hasn’t made all of us sick. And just when we thought it was over, it’s become clear that it’s far from over. After nearly a year of restrictions, we were starved for lazy weekend brunches, vacations at the beach with family and friends, long nights at our favorite watering holes. We need this. We can’t live a Zoom call’s length from each other for long. And so we are going to have to learn how to live in this new world.
“Nobody these days wants to work”
Despite what it might seem like when your local big box retailer or small independent cafe closes early, national unemployment continues its slow and steady decline. After the economy was gutted from massive job losses in spring 2020, it’s become an employee’s market, with many companies offering higher wages, incentives and bonuses to keep and attract new people. The General Store alone lost some people in the spring of last year, but we’ve long since fully recovered, with a full payroll, and General Store employees taking home more now than a year and a half ago. We’ve had no shortage of people wanting to work, and the amazing people who work at the General Store have all done a fantastic job to keep up with increasing demand. A lot of restaurants closed their doors permanently in 2020, and for those who have survived this shifting landscape, we’ve been faced with a whole nest of issues that we have not had to deal with before.
Last year, when we first heard the word “pandemic” as an everyday reality, when it felt like the sky was falling, a lot of people in the service industry lost their jobs, and others made the personal decision to find other kinds of jobs that didn’t require working directly with the public face-to-face. Restaurants and retail are already incredibly demanding work, and when you add to that the possibility of contracting a dangerous illness that has hospitalized hundreds of thousands, it doesn’t make a stressful job any less so, prompting many to leave the industry entirely, just at a time when it’s recovering from a disastrous 2020.
So that’s all fine and well, that’s big picture stuff, but what about right here and now? What’s been going on this very moment that would prompt the likes of the Saxapahaw General Store, who previously had maintained the ability to stay open throughout any disaster, to begin closing the kitchen early on a regular basis?
The short answer is all of the above plus an overabundance of caution.
Maybe that’s not the answer you were looking for. Maybe you wanted something more explicit, something that makes for a better headline, but that’s the truth. You can see the charts, you can read the stories of ICUs filling up with covid patients, you can read the personal stories of those who have caught covid on social media, or you might know someone personally. The gory details are out there if that’s what you’re looking for. You can read about and debate the efficacy of vaccines elsewhere. The everyday reality on the ground is that we are balancing the needs of our employees and the needs of the public. A public who wants to hang out with close friends over farm-fresh burgers and fries with a locally crafted beer out on the patio on a long summer night, and our employees who are out there on the front lines of everyone’s attempt to maintain sanity and normalcy.
We know you miss dinner in Saxapahaw, and we miss being there for you. The eery quiet of the General Store after 4 o’clock lately has been…odd to say the least, yet also kind of relaxing.
But we have to be careful. We have to have space to deep clean, and we can’t be too cautious when it comes to the delta variant of covid-19. If someone has as much as a fever or a sore throat, we’re asking them to stay home, follow the advice of their doctor and get better. Even if someone isn’t showing symptoms, but has potentially been exposed to someone with covid-19, we ask them to stay home, get tested and follow through with their doctor. Regardless of what ails us, the health and safety of our employees and the public is paramount. We’ve all been through a lot during this pandemic, and we’ve got to maintain that delicate balancing act, and we can’t risk things spiraling out of control.
So that’s what’s going on, at least from here. We’re still doing catering events, big and small, so if you’ve got anything from a business lunch or a small family gathering to a larger wedding, drop us a line. We currently don’t require masks for customers in the store, though it’s highly encouraged, even if you’re fully vaccinated against covid-19. We’ll have our schedule back to normal soon enough, though with things changing and developing every day, this doesn’t allow us the luxury of saying exactly when. How very 2020-21.
The support of our customers and our community has been tremendous during this time, and we can’t thank you enough for your patience. We also couldn’t get through this craziness without the professionalism, resilience, and flexibility of our staff.