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Restaurants business better, but still a ways to go | News



MARIETTA — Restaurants, like the rest of the service industry, were hit especially hard in March, as businesses across Georgia closed due to coronavirus concerns.

Four months later, Cobb County eateries have gained back much of their customer base, but face uncertain futures as cases have recently surged.

At The Red Eyed Mule in Marietta on the South Loop, owner Sabra Wood estimates her business is down about 30%. While some days see plenty of full tables, Wood worries about the high costs of food and personal protective equipment.

She said she exclusively uses certified Angus beef, which is almost double the price it was last year, and the price of gloves, where she can find them, went up “astronomically.”

“Being closed for over two months, trying to recoup that loss and having these inflated food costs on top of that, and materials, every day is a struggle,” she said.

The Red Eyed Mule has 10 employees, including Wood, and she said she was fortunate that almost all of them came back when the restaurant reopened. She said during the worst few weeks, she used her own money to pay employees until the restaurant received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan. 

Since March, the restaurant has more than doubled its outdoor seating, and while Wood said she can’t afford to use a third-party delivery vendor, it offers takeout and curbside pickup for orders in addition to dining in.

“I have a very strong faith, and I honestly, I feel that it’s going to get better. I think that the community, Marietta, is amazing, just the support that they’ve shown all the restaurants,” she said. “I think we’re on the right path to recovery. We’re learning as we go. And I think with the support of the community, and if everybody wears their mask, we’re going to get through this.”

Honeysuckle Biscuits and Bakery in Kennesaw never completely closed, but the restaurant did scale back hours and cut down staff cut down staff to three people — the couple who owns it and a barista — said one of the owners, Mitch Phillips.

Thanks to loyal customers, including some who bought gift cards of as much as $100, the restaurant has stayed open and is fully staffed again, and business is nearly back to the level it was before, Phillips said. They’ve also shifted their business in a way Phillips thinks will last a long time: about 60% to 70% of customers are taking orders for takeout, curbside or delivery.

“For right now, we’re back to close to what we were a year ago. It’s in a different format, it’s a lot more takeout, DoorDash and other people coming in,” he said. “But in the last two weeks or so, we’ve started to see it slip back. I think people are getting scared again.”

Still, Phillips said he’s optimistic about the rest of the year and is hoping the breakfast and lunch spot regains customers from Kennesaw State University when classes start.

“We’re grateful that everybody stuck with us and kept coming in,” he said. “We give glory to God that he is seeing our way through and we’re hoping we’ll continue to keep moving forward.”

Vittles, a Southern comfort food staple on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna, is seeing about half the business it was, owner Charity Salyers said. 

“Business has picked up tremendously, and we are still seating every 6 feet, so we’re still kind of short on our tables, but we’re filling up our tables several times a day, and people are patiently waiting when we are full,” Salyers said. “Business is still nowhere near what it was before. We’re maybe halfway, but we’re still lacking a lot.”

After Salyers bought the restaurant last year, it had about 20 employees, and now operates with half that, offering limited dine-in and some takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery for residents in an 8-mile radius or home-bound seniors. And like Wood, Salyers’ profits are cut further by rising costs in the supply chain.

In April, Salyers sold her car to keep the restaurant open and pay employees. Now, she worries her business could be hit with another shutdown amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“Of course we watch the news and we see all this, and it seems like the numbers keep climbing with this virus, so we really don’t know. We’re kind of worried they’re going to end up shutting us down again,” she said. “It’s scary, because you worked so hard to get where you are. It’s really a struggle for us because we haven’t been open that long.”

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Batten Kill business owner says he’s not the slob | Local




Drawn by the river

Swimmers were drawn in May to the Rexleigh covered bridge on the Battenkill near Salem. 

A businessman who runs a tubing company down the Batten Kill says his business is not contributing to the problems with partying and littering on the river.

Tony DiDonna, co-owner of Big Big on the Battenkill Kayak and Tubing, said four outfitters are usually running on the river, but only two are open this summer.

DiDonna’s customers park their cars at the Route 313 service road in Salem and start their tubing journey in Arlington, Vermont. His customers are not parking on private property or littering, he said.

Two Washington County supervisors asked the Sheriff’s Office last week to intervene because of complaints about littering, garbage and trespassing on private property along the Batten Kill in Salem and Jackson.

“We see it all the time,” DiDonna said. “We clean probably 80 percent of the garbage out of the Route 313 pulloff that is open to the public.”

No garbage cans have been put out in that area, he said.

DiDonna said he is now being investigated by the state Department of Transportation for picking up his customers on the New York side.

His customers are told to bring out whatever they bring in and not to park on private property, he said.

“That place is a complete mess from the public,” DiDonna said. “It’s got nothing to do with the outfitters that are in there.”

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New business in Cedar Rapids hoping metal demand helps it survive during pandemic




CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – A new business opening Monday in Cedar Rapids said it is meeting a demand that is growing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Metal Supermarkets is located at 6805 4th Street Southwest. It’s the first Metal Supermarkets to open in Iowa. Leaders say metal is still in demand during the pandemic.

They sell things like cutting material, and will deliver it to a person’s job site. Leaders feel confident opening during the pandemic.

They say people are staying at home more and starting home projects, and that’s driving the metal demand. There’s also essential businesses like manufacturing that need metal materials.

“Manufacturing services of say a company that makes mask for example,” explained Rick Heller, President of the Metal Supermakets Cedar Rapids location. “If they have any type of equipment that goes down, they may need to purchase a piece of material to get their equipment back online. That’s where we come into play.”

Face masks for customers and workers is optional in their store. They will do curbside pickup. They have four people on staff and hope to expand in the future. They are reaching out to local companies about their business.

The business can be reached at (319) 382-2325.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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‘Your Mind Your Business’ webinar focused on importance of mental heath and well-being




By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

The importance of mental health care is increasingly coming to the forefront, but strides still need to be made to move forward according to a panel of advocates at a recent “Your Mind Your Business” webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Club.

“I think that we have this tendency to underplay the importance of mental health even though all of our data shows that it feeds right into physical health and productivity and everything else that they are directly correlated by,” says Dr. Mike Kalfas, Addiction Medicine Physician, St. Elizabeth Physicians.

Dr. Mike Kalfas

Chris Faust, President and CEO, Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, echoes Dr. Kalfas’ sentiments. “I believe mental health helps with physical health and if your employees feel good and they’re healthy, they end up being more productive. If the person is made whole and healthy, the rest will follow, Faust says.

Leadership teams need to connect on a personal level with their employees says Maria Sulcer, Outreach Specialist, The Lindner Center of Hope.

“To connect with people, we have to get personal, so we have to learn about ourselves and our own self-awareness. We have got to check in with people,” says Sulcer.

Connecting with people means both on a personal and professional level. “I think that’s the key right now. We all know mental health and physical health [are connected]. We’ve got to address that as the same because the mental, emotional effects the physical and the physical effects the mental, emotional. So being there for people is what’s key,” Sulcer says.

Chris Faust

“In terms of policy, the fact is that mental health is not treated the same as physical health,” says Faust. Issues between providers and insurers must be resolved. Mental health coverage is based on in-network, says Faust. “If none of the providers want to work with the health insurance companies, there’s nobody in-network and it’s cost-prohibitive for a lot of individuals in order to get the help that they need,” he says.

To help this he suggests a much larger focus from a national perspective on insurance carriers. “I just don’t understand how they have not connected mental health with the physical side. Maybe there would not be so many medical bills on heart attack and high blood pressure if things were treated on a mental side. They’re treated completely differently, and they shouldn’t be,” says Faust.

“Until companies insist that they get better mental health care coverage and it’s not this little help, this little bubble on the 15th or 16th page, nothing is going to change. Hopefully, this is one good thing that’s coming out of this is we’re realizing that mental health is, we got a brush fire going on and then if we need insurance coverage in-network coverage and providers to be available,” says Trevor Steinhauser, Advocate for Mental Health & Addiction; host of Stigmatized, Behavioral Health Podcast.

Maria Sulcer

Mental health is always the first coverage to get cut, says Dr. Kalfas. When employers and insurers review the premium to determine costs, the first place they automatically cut is mental health. Then premiums, deductibles, and copays are raised to reach an agreement on a price.

Dr. Kalfas says he is relieved when he sees a patient has Medicaid. From experience he knows going through commercial insurance will be a struggle to get the recommended treatment.
Parity is a medical-legal term which makes something a priority from a legal standpoint, says Dr. Kalfas, it becomes required to accept that. “I think parity laws need to be tightened a little bit, making mental health service compulsory in the health plans.” This provides an avenue for legislative remedies, but someone must take this on.

“I think ultimately, we’ve been making these types of things the government’s job, so I think by default it is their job to see that it’s done,” says Dr. Kalfas. However, because of nuances in different regions, he believes it should be handled at the local and state level. Around Northern Kentucky the opioid crisis is big, but somewhere else it may be alcoholism.

Trevor Steinhauser

A national plan sets the tone says, Faust. When there is no support for mental health care at the national level, it makes it harder for states. “When there’s national pressure on the insurance industry and others to open up the plans to allow for more access, that could be the role they play and then let the states and local counties do what they need to do,” says Faust.

The government needs to lead the way for mental health, but communities need the flexibility to design what works for them, says Steinhauser. “One particular community is going to come up with a solution that can be copied in other places,” he says. Making a one size fits all plan will stifle creative solutions, denying ideas others will want to emulate. Allowing the development of many solutions is necessary.

Also, Dr. Kalfas says to look at policies that are now in place but causing problems and then reverse engineer them. Research and investigate what led to the problem and correct those. Some of the policies were state and federal, some from payer issues, and some parity issues.

Human-centric solutions are needed, these advocates say. Businesses need to take a stand and demand quality, affordable mental health care from their insurance providers. The national government needs to set the tone in requiring mental health and addiction coverage.

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

Thanks to Report for America, with support from the Ground Truth Project, St. ELizabeth Healthcare, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Douglas G. Martin Foundation. You, too, can support this reporting and other NKyTribune reporting with a tax-deductible donation today. Help us continue to provide accurate, up-to-date local news and information you can depend on.

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