Mansfield Restaurant Owners Discuss COVID-19 Impact
The cold, dreary afternoon mirrored sales inside Hypnotic Emporium. Only owner Billy Odell and his accountant were inside the ice cream and candy store in Mansfield’s historic downtown. And the accountant didn’t seem happy.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said.
The COVID-19 stay home, stay safe orders have dampened sales in restaurants across the country since mid-March. Even though they are considered essential, restaurants have felt the bite from the virus with small, family owned shops feeling the most pain.
“The first month it was really good until this week,” Odell said. “Now that we’re looking at a second month, people are holding their purse strings tighter. This next month is not going to be near as fruitful.”
Just down Main Street from Hypnotic Emporium, Dirty Job Brewing is uncharacteristically quiet. The brew pub draws crowds with trivia nights, yoga sessions, book club meetings and runs every week.
“Mostly it’s been, I don’t know, dead,” said owner Derek Hubenak. “People are still coming here for pizza kits, box lunches, family meal deals and ingredients for people to make pizzas at home.”
And Hubenak and his co-owners Justin Watson and Lashawn Hubenak are still canning and selling beer by the can and growler. Some customers come in every week for refills, he said.
Mansfield restaurants still open but business is down
Just around the corner, MaryLou’s Coffee & Sandwich Shoppe’s wide front porch, normally filled with people drinking coffee and eating lunch, sits deserted.
“It could be worse,” said owner Melisa Perez. “The first week that this happened we were doing decent. Last week it slowed down considerably. We’re probably doing 50 percent of what we normally do. Some days we do really good, some days we do really bad.”
Hubenak said he feels bad because the hit to his business means that Dirty Job Brewing won’t be able to support community events the way it has in the past.
“The four major events that we make money on are the Pickle Parade, crawfish boil, Drinko de Mayo and Beers Day Party in July,” he said. “We are absolutely going to miss the first three revenue events. That sucks because that’s money that we give back to the community.”
Odell said the cancellation of the Pickle Parade in March was the first big hit for downtown businesses.
“We had all stocked up for the Pickle Parade,” he said. “And we really were hoping and praying that it would come to fruition. We had bought tons of extra shirts, merchandise and ice cream.”
Restaurants get creative to keep customers
All of the businesses have gotten creative.
Dirty Job is buying hard-to-find groceries from their supplier to box and sell to their customers, making no profit just trying to help their customers.
Perez has ramped up her website and created specials on coffee and sandwiches. Hypnotic Emporium is running daily deals on social media.
“I give away Beanie Babies, shirts or a roll of toilet paper,” Odell said. “A lot of people are sending me posts giving me ideas on how to package what I have so they can come pick up.”
Perez, who has been a downtown fixture since 2011 but moved to her new location at 404 E. Broad St. last April, worries about her employees, too.
“I’m working with hardly any staff,” she said. “I have employees that won’t work because they’re in high school and their parents won’t let them. I have two young ones that their parents are concerned so they stay in the back.”
Buy a gift card, buy a sandwich to support restaurants
Perez says to support local businesses during the COVID-19 quarantine, buy a gift card, order coffee or provide lunch for somebody. A recent Go Fund Me project for first responders ordered 400 box lunches for hospital employees and 50 for the fire and police departments, she said.
“It was huge for me, that one catering did what we’ve probably done in a week,” she said. “I was so grateful.”
She also feels grateful that her business is still open, Perez said, since she has friends who are not able to work at all.
All three business owners say that their regular customers are keeping their businesses going and their spirits up.
“I have three customers that are here every day,” Perez said. “I have a customer who comes from Benbrook every week. We are very fortunate to live in the city we live in.”
Mansfield has been really supportive, said Odell, who opened Hypnotic Emporium in May 2018.
“The group that I lease from has been extremely supportive,” he said. “Everybody that I’ve had to make a payment to has been extremely supportive.
“I’d just like to say thank you for the outpouring of good wishes and the people coming into Hypnotic Emporium,” Odell said.