Restaurants find creative ways to meet customers’ needs during coronavirus shutdown

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As more local businesses are forced to shut down or operate differently, some owners have been turning their businesses into something else to fit their customers’ changing needs.

Grocery and convenience stores are noticeably filled to the brim with customers, so they are often running out of many products. Local restaurateurs are stepping in to help.

Some Memphis restaurants have shifted operations and are now offering a market for customers to pick up things that may now be hard to come by at a grocery store.

Jim Losapio, owner of Spindini in downtown Memphis, said he noticed a community in need and realized that his employees needed to stay working. He opened South Main Grocery out of Spindini to fill both of those needs.

“We decided to open a little grocery store, convenience store,” Losapio said. “We’ve utilized and are selling a lot of our inventory, but we’re also bringing in fresh asparagus, fresh cantaloupe, fresh bananas and a lot of things people are looking for right now: bread, milk. We do have a limited supply of toilet paper.”

Losapio said not only is Spindini offering the grocery store items, but they’re also selling meal kits like pizzas and lasagna for guests to take and cook at home.

“Trying to keep our employees active and let them make some money, and then also South Main has done so much for us here that we want to give back to those people and don’t to leave South Main without a restaurant or a grocery store to go to,” Losapio said.

Though this is the beginning of the first week for South Main Grocery, Losapio said response from the community has been phenomenal, and he’s now able to keep around employees who could have otherwise been laid off.

Loflin Yard is also operating as a market. Jess Ajoc, manager at Loflin Yard, said it was an obvious choice to open a market to sell items the restaurant cannot currently use.

“We wanted to be able to give back to our neighbors and give them an opportunity to buy things they can’t find in the grocery store that we have plenty of,” Ajoc said.

Ajoc said people in the community have been largely supportive of the market. She said the Loflin Yard market can serve as less-busy alternative to grocery stores that are currently overcrowded with people.

“A lot of people have been really thankful that we have these things, that we’ve been able to open up our cabinets to them,” Ajoc said.

Loflin Yard is managed by Party Memphis, which also manages Bounty on Broad, Railgarten, Rec Room and Highland Axe and Rec. Loflin Yard is the only property that survived the civil emergency declaration.

Owner Taylor Berger started a new company, Two Broke Bartenders and a Truck, to keep some of his employees working.

Ajac said Two Broke Bartenders exists to help the community with just about anything during this uncertain time.

“We have bartenders on staff that are going around, doing tasks that you can’t do or your grocery shopping, whatever you need, we can do that for you,” she said. “That way there are less people out in the world.”

Ajac said anyone who needs assistance from Two Broke Bartenders can call or reach out on the new company’s website.

“We’ll do whatever it take to get it done for you,” Ajac said.

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