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CPB Spotlight: Claire Calvin, The Porch

Q&A with Claire Calvin

Owner of The Porch, Canteen Market & Bistro and Alma Mexicana

CPB: Claire, thanks so much for your time. Can you share some lessons you’ve learned as a business owner processing the unraveling impacts of Covid-19?

LESSON 1: PLANNING

“In early January, I took a break from night time social media in an effort to get more sleep. That turned into me reading more news reports before bed. There were so many compelling stories about what was happening in China. But, no one was talking about it here. I put into action a three phase plan for our restaurants. I was prepping for the worst and hoping for the best. I learned that if something is tugging at you, it’s better to have a plan for it – even if you can’t stop it from happening, even if people think you’re overreacting.”

LESSON 2: HONESTY

“We only had one take out order the night we decided to close the doors at Canteen and Alma Mexicana. We had to be honest with the realities of what was happening. The best way for us to care for our employees was to give them an opportunity to find income elsewhere. It was devastating having to let them go. I received so many texts from them, thanking me for fighting for the business so they will have a restaurant to come back to. I am so grateful for them. They have given me strength through some incredibly hard decisions.”

LESSON 3: THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY

“It didn’t make sense economically for us to keep Alma Mexicana open even though the restaurant performed extremely well as a dine-in, carry out option pre Covid-19. Not every restaurant has the set up to switch their entire business model from a restaurant service to food production and delivery. That’s why we’ve seen some of our favorite places temporarily close their doors. I think the best thing we can do for local restaurants is to support them in being economically responsible. The key is to spread the word about the realities of the restaurant business model to the broader community. The more people understand the challenges, the better they can support the restaurants they love in a healthy way.”

LESSON 4: REOPENING

“We all have to come together to support an economically responsible rebirth of the restaurant industry. We have to be careful about the timing. Bars and Restaurants need to be the last to reopen other than large entertainment gatherings. It’s hard to hear that because we love going out to eat or having a drink at our favorite bar. I can tell you as an owner of three independent restaurants, we miss our customers and employees dearly. We are working so hard to come back. But, what will that look like? The financial implications of reopening a restaurant are so complex. There is no way we can just turn it back on over night. If we don’t understand that as a community, independent restaurants will not survive.”

LESSON 5: THE HUMAN SPIRIT

“We are currently operating through the Dinners on the Porch delivery service. We’re making fresh and frozen meals for people to order and enjoy remotely. Connecting with the community in this way has been so uplifting. We have the opportunity to provide great meals to families, health care workers, and essential businesses. We have seen first hand the beauty and the hardships. Even though this has been hard for all of us, our community has been so strong. The power and beauty of the human spirit is to come together and care for each other. I’ve seen that through our employees, our customers, and our community. I’m truly grateful to be a part of that.”