Q&A: Webster business owners hopeful for return to normal after pandemic

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Three business owners in Webster Groves reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their businesses.

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic halted normal operations for local businesses in their tracks, business owners in Webster Groves are looking back – and looking forward – the year ahead. The owners of three eateries reflected on how the pandemic has affected them.

Stanley Browne is the co-owner of Robust Wine Bar in downtown Webster. Photo contributed by Stanley Browne.

Stanley Browne, co-owner, Robust Wine Bar

Question: How is business looking, now that things are slowly going back to “normal?”

Answer: It’s slowly picking up, we’re probably at about 70% of what we normally do in sales. We’re not there yet, but it’s gradually coming back.

Question: How did the pandemic affect the restaurant?

Answer: I didn’t know what was going to happen. We had to pivot and be creative; we had a little tent outside selling wine.

Question: We saw a lot of businesses try new things to get over the hump. What other new approaches did you try during the pandemic that you will continue doing going forward?

Answer: Curbside and delivery – that’s not going to go away – which I don’t think is a bad thing because if you can add another revenue stream to your establishment, it’s a positive thing.

Beckie Jacobs is the owner of Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream. Photo by Jordan Parker.

Beckie Jacobs, owner, Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream

Question: How did the pandemic affect Serendipity? 

Answer: It was awful, we had to “close close.” We were closed for about eight weeks. Then, we were still very limited on what we were doing. On March 9 (last year), we had to switch to online only. 

Question: What was it like for an ice cream shop to do online ordering only?

Answer: It was hard because we’re not set up for that. After a week and a half of that, we just said, “Screw this,” and shut it down for a little bit.

Question: Now, one year later, is business better? 

Answer: Business has really picked up, we’re doing pretty well. People seem to be looking for a place to get out.

Joel Crespo is the co-owner of Guerrilla Street Food. Photo by Jordan Parker.

Joel Crespo, co-owner, Guerrilla Street Food 

Question: How has COVID affected Guerrilla Street Food?

Answer: Our South Grand and Delmar locations closed due to the pandemic. (Webster) survived the pandemic because it’s a smaller place, less rent, and it’s predominantly carry out and delivery, which we were doing before the pandemic. We were planning to do monthly collaborations with local food businesses before the pandemic hit. Once everything is back to normal, we intend to put that plan into motion. 

Question: What are some of the changes you’ve implemented? 

Answer: What we ended up doing during the pandemic, when we fully committed to carry out and delivery, was to expand the kitchen. (There used to be a small seating area inside the restaurant. The kitchen now takes up the entire front space of Guerrilla Street Food.) 

Question: How has business been, now that things are beginning to return to “normal?” 

Answer: It’s still a struggle, but it has definitely picked up. With nice weather and everybody starting to get vaccinated, we’re taking the leap. Even when things do start to “go back to normal,” I think it’s going to take a minute for people to rebuild trust and go out again.

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Jordan Parker
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