Businesses brave to open new shops during pandemic

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 9:19 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - As many businesses feel strained from the coronavirus keeping customers home, some business owners dare to embark on new journeys.

Grace Coffee Co. plans to open its third location in Sun Prairie next Friday. Despite having experience with openings across Madison, co-owner Carlos Falcon said this time feels different.

“It’s that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said. “Not having the certainty of whether this store is going to be busy.”

Falcon said his plans to expand and reach “every single community in the Wisconsin area” go back long before the pandemic. In January, he sealed the deal for his next step with a lease.

But Falcon and his team of 15 employees will open under restricted circumstances, guided by public health orders limiting indoor customer service.

The challenge, Falcon explained, is “mostly the fact that all our locations are designed for attracting people to dine in.”

In Monona, Salvatore’s Tomato Pies is three weeks into its open. The restaurant’s fourth and newest location faces similar challenges to those of Falcon’s coffee shop.

Chef and owner Patrick DePula explained, “Even though carry-out delivery has grown quite a bit, we’re still down from previous years because of not having dine-in rooms available.”

Customers have access to just 300 square feet of the restaurant, for take-out service only.

“Some people think I’m crazy for opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,” DePula said. “But I’ve never been one to sit back and hope for the best. I’ve always tried to make the best of the situation myself.”

DePula said he revamped his business model by adding “family meals” and “take-and-bake” options to his menu.

“More so than any other time, the amount of innovation that has to keep occurring in order to stay in business is tenfold,” he said.

For the first time, Grace Coffee Co. will try out a drive-thru window and serve new menu items, like cake.

These innovations are not just to survive the pandemic-- but to thrive.

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