DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s been a tough two weeks for local businesses ever since Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the shutdown of restaurants and bars to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Chris Diebel, who owns Bubba downtown, said he had to reduce staff drastically, from 48 to four.
“It’s a heartbreaking reality these people are not just our colleagues they’re our work, family,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the lights on so we can have them back here soon enough.”
Diebel said seeing his restaurant completely empty is a devastating picture of the reality.
“This place has a wonderful heartbeat, a pulse about it when it’s filled with people,” he said. “And we certainly miss our customers. They’ve become our friends and our family, and we can’t wait to have him back here.”
Despite the hardship, the outbreak has become a time where entrepreneurs are looking to face their creativity muscles; for those who are keeping their doors open, it means finding new ways to delivery their services or products. It’s also a chance to band together with other local businesses to help support one another.
Dieble said Bubba doesn’t have enough resources to supply dessert during this time, so it has paired with Creme Cupcakes to help them too.
Over at Gusto Pizza Co., co-owner Josh Holderness said they’ve been in talks with other local shops to figure out ways they can help one another out. He said the challenge during this period is staying fresh on customers’ minds.
“We don’t know how long this is gonna last,” Holderness said. “It’s not a one or two week things we’ve seen, we need to continue to stay relevant.”
He said Gusto is now offering frozen take-home pizzas and creating more family-friendly style meals, like lasagna that feeds a family of six.
At Bubba, Diebel has created take-home cocktail kits, as Gov. Reynolds temporarily is allowing restaurants to sell to-go alcohol during this time, but not pre-made drinks.
“Since are a whiskey centric place, we are doing Old Fashion kids with different housemaid simple syrups every week,” he said. “That’s been a fun way that that we can add to the customer experience – they can make some cocktails at home and dream of the day is when they were hanging out in the lounge.”
Drake University professor Deb Bishop, who studies business operations, said it will be interesting to see which temporary services will stick around depending on consumers’ response.
“Some of the creative solutions small businesses are coming up with, the might stick with those,” she said.
For Gusto, Holderness said they will just have to see how successful their new options are.
Both owners said if there’s been any silver lining at all, it’s the response they’re getting from the community.
Holderness said Iowans have been living up to “Iowa nice,” as he’s seen them not only support local businesses, but also healthcare workers on the front lines.
“It’s been tremendously heartwarming. People have been very generous,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people calling in offering to order pizzas for the hospitals, the nurses and doctors and medical staff.”
“The only way we’re getting through this is because people have been so kind,” Diebel said.