BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Chowders ’N Moor owners Tom and Tina Kuron have weathered plenty of challenges since opening their downtown Waterville restaurant: A 2011 kitchen fire closed the doors for seven months and the 2014 algae bloom necessitated a switch to paper products in the nautical-themed dining area.
On Monday, the couple watched as customers trickled in for noontime takeout orders and shared how the coronavirus pandemic has reduced their business by a third.
“This is 100 times worse,” Tom said. “This is devastating.”
Chowders ’N Moor is one of the Anthony Wayne area businesses considered an essential service and permitted to stay open during the two-week “stay at home” order from Gov. Mike DeWine. How that order impacts what is now a 100-percent takeout business remains to be seen, Tom said.
“We’re making the best of it,” Tina said. Area restaurants are supporting one another as they remain open for takeout. Shawn’s Irish Tavern, Marco’s, Pizza Hut, Cocina de Carlos, La Banda and Biggby’s Coffee remain open, she said. Dale’s Diner continues to have a steady flow of loyal customers picking up breakfast and lunch orders, added owner Bill Anderson.
As they remain open, these businesses are implementing extra cleaning measures and maintaining a 6-foot distance from customers. The Kurons retooled their kitchen, which was once set up for dishes, to fill to-go boxes instead. Tom couldn’t find Styrofoam containers at Gordon’s, but he placed an order with Al Peake & Sons.
“To-go ware is the new TP for restaurants,” he said with a laugh.
Picking up a to-go order on Monday was Brenda Mossing of Farmers & Merchants State Bank. The bank lobby is closed and, while patrons are permitted inside one at a time to get help, everything is cleaned before and after, she said. Many customers who have never used electronic banking are calling for assistance with everything from simple transactions to wiring money.
“We’re going to get through this,” Mossing said.
In Monclova Township, The Baker’s Kitchen is also open, as it offers a mixture of gourmet specialty foods, produce, wine, beer and baked goods. Owner Marcia Thrush said she took calls all day on Monday from people asking for a chocolate cake or other sweets before they erroneously thought every business – including those selling food – would be shutting down.
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” she said.
Many of her customers come from the 600-home Waterside and other nearby developments.
“With a lot of the older customers, they don’t want to go to a bigger grocery store, but they’re comfortable coming in here,” she said. “We added more produce, frozen food and dairy products. We already have a lot of specialty foods like pasta sauce and we’ve always offered to-go lunches.”
As schools are closed, she’s had parents coming in to buy cookie sheets and ingredients for making their own pizzas.
“A lot of people are cooking and baking at home for something to do,” she said.
Those who do come in for cakes are buying the smaller sizes, as large gatherings are taboo. One bride called to cancel her March 21 wedding with 200 guests.
“This (coronavirus) makes the water crisis seem like a trip to Cedar Point,” Thrush said. “This has got a lot of people scared. People think everything will be closed.”
Tom Wardell was glad to see that agriculture is listed as an essential service. The owner of Wardell’s Greenhouse recently invested over $1,000 into plant starts for spring planting. While the retail area is open for those wanting to buy seeds and materials for planting, Wardell has been busy working in the back greenhouses.
“It’s a great time to get out and start a garden,” he said, noting that people will be at home with spare time on their hands.
It’s being at home that’s prompting customers to head into Waterville Hardware and Paint, as well.
“A lot of people are stuck at home and have projects to do. People are at home staring at the walls and saying, ‘I need to get that fixed,’” said John Knollman, who owns the downtown store with his wife Marcia. “If a sump pump quits and the basement floods, people need to get supplies to get it fixed.”
Even local business owners have been using the time to fix up their locations. Custom Exteriors commissioned Nilsson’s Landscaping to work on the lawn of its Farnsworth Road business, including replacing the front steps. Cocina de Carlos is also sprucing up its Peddlers Alley location.
For those who have closed their doors, the local chambers of commerce are offering information on Small Business Administration Loans and other resources. Visit www.awchamber.com or www.watervillechamber.com.
For those who are working at home, schooling the kids or getting outside, Knollman has a perspective about the government-ordered pause in life.
“It’s a time when we can reconstruct some family relationships like it was before we had so much technology,” he said. “It’s a time to reset your values and see what life’s all about.”
If your business or organization is located in the Anthony Wayne area and you have a story to share about coping with the coronavirus, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (567) 249-6085.