Waitress Brooklyn Siebers safely delivers an order between Terry Fitzpatrick and Larry Ockers at Along Came Trudy in Springfield on Monday morning. The restaurant opened as part of the state’s Phase I. MIKE NORTDTVEDT/LIFESLICE PHOTOGRAPHY
After months of lights out in dining areas, local restaurants this week began asking customers again whether they want to “dine in” or “take out.” Lane County got the green light to enter Phase 1 on May 15, including barber shops and other personal-care businesses, gyms and in-restaurant dining.
One multi-pronged business, Coast Fork Brewing and Feed Store, experienced a surge in one part of its business, and a slump in the other during the pandemic.
The family-owned business at 106 S. 6th St. in Cottage Grove doubles as a farm and feed store, Coast Fork Feed Store, in addition to being a taphouse, The Brewstation.
Awaiting a “fresh start” after three months of closed dining rooms, The Brewstation is readying to reopen its dine-in areas in style Thursday, May 21. Social restrictions have helped move along interior projects during the customer lull, said owner Dale Smith, as she eyed the refinished floors in the taphouse, shiny and glazed, donning the business logo. Both indoor and outdoor beer garden seating is reopening.
The Brewstation took hard losses since the COVID-19 restrictions, and Smith said it is a breath of fresh air to be interacting with customers in this capacity again.
At the other end of the building, however, the feed store sales have doubled this year, Smith said, and had to expand its selection to further accommodate demand, with items like yeast for bread baking and home fermenting products being particularly popular through the pandemic.
It’s because the run on products since March has made some people realize they do not want to have to rely on grocery stores, Smith said, noting that her sales from heirloom seeds and backyard chicken materials indicate that a lot more people are growing their own food this year.
Though financial impacts of the pandemic have been “devastating” for another multi-pronged business, Along Came Trudy Events & Cafe owner Trudy Logan said she is “ready to get back to business as usual.”
The Springfield business at 1486 18th St. stayed afloat through the pandemic by local customer support, takeout orders and by securing the federal payroll loan, Logan said.
For the first time since March, eager customers sat down in the dining room at Trudy’s on Monday, greeted this time by a waitress in a mask.
“Our customers are so loyal and very kind,” Logan said. It’s an especially good feeling to see people in the seats again,” Logan said. Both sides of the business have also seen hard losses through the pandemic – especially the venue side of the operation, she said.
Before COVID-19, the venue was a premier location in Springfield for weddings, holiday bazaars, celebrations of life, and was a space where the local realtors and chamber of commerce regularly met.
As the most profitable element of her business, “We definitely need to reopen the events side soon because without it, we would be one of those businesses that are … not doing so well,” Logan said.
Smith agrees. The Brewstation used to host music and trivia nights, but with evolving guidelines and a plethora of logistical unknowns, she doesn’t see those events coming back just yet. Smith said she would rather “ease back into” the swing of things.
Logan said that while she does not know when Trudy’s will be allowed to accommodate bigger crowds, she is keeping an eye on the plans to reopen as they develop.
“We are looking forward to having our big groups come back,” Logan said.
As businesses reopen and try to find their footing, area leaders remind the community to practice patience.
“We are certainly urging the public to be mindful and expect that the experience will be different,” said Vonnie Mikkelsen, president and CEO for the Springfield-area Chamber of Commerce.
“In the short term it’s not going to return to Mayberry,” said Andy Vobora, Travel Lane County’s vice president of stakeholder relations. “Everything from disposable utensils, how condiments are provided and how many customers may be accommodated will change the experience. It can still be a great experience, but it will be different.”
It’s going to be complicated, and gradual, Mikkelsen said.
“Our food and beverage establishments are modifying their physical space and safety protocols to comply with state guidelines,” she said. “This requires a considerable amount of effort to retool and redefine their open-for-business model.”
One thing these businesses need is patience from customers, said Vobora. “They and their staff are doing their very best, but it will take some time to iron out the kinks,” Vobora said. “Staff will be wearing face masks to protect customers, so no matter how we personally feel about wearing masks, we should follow the rules each establishment has determined is best for the safety of their staff. If you disagree, please be respectful of staff. They aren’t establishing the guidelines, but they are being asked to enforce them.”
The best way to support local business is by being patient, remembering that these small businesses and their employees are also adapting, Mikkelsen said. “And, their ultimate goal is to provide the best possible service under the most extraordinary of circumstances,” Mikkelsen said. “So, tip generously, buy gift cards, and bring an extra dose of good old-fashioned kindness wherever you go.”
A county will remain in Phase I for at least 21 days before a potential move to Phase II.
The goal is to further expand gathering size, allow some office work, plus begin to allow visitation to congregate care, according to the plan. Specifics are still being worked out and will be based on data collected in Phase I.
The Brewstation is “launching carefully,” Dale said, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., with hours to increase gradually.
Along Came Trudy is open for dine-in and takeout orders, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.