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The Corona Diaries: A Rare Gift

When Joe asked Harriet and I to write a piece for the Corona Diaries, I immediately said YES before he could finish the question. Let me be honest, I have a lot to say on the subject. The day we realized how bad it was going to be was Harriet’s birthday. Even then, we couldn’t fully comprehend what was headed our way. Happy birthday, lady!  I don’t really remember the first few days, as it was a mad rush to develop a plan and find some form of consistency. I consider Harriet and I to be some of the lucky ones. This may sound crazy but I have good reasons.

After week two, everyone’s nerves were frayed. We had been working with just six to seven people at both Melt and Fancy’s, upwards of 14 hours a day, five days a week. One thing was for certain, we were determined to stay open for curbside and delivery as well to make safe and healthy decisions for our staff and guests. I remember sitting in the mafia booth at Fancy’s with our managers. Tempers were beginning to show and the tension was rising. I looked Harriet in the eye, and we both knew. We have been in this relationship long enough to know what the other is thinking. We were at a very critical point. We were either going to crack under pressure and turn on each other or use this as an opportunity to become closer as a team.

This is why I say we are the fortunate ones because at that moment, we decided this was going to be our bond. Our small team had now become thick as thieves and we started to become a real family. I saw my managers develop the most impressive leadership skills, learn to problem solve and see things with an all new perspective. I don’t have children, but at that moment I realized this was my family and we would not let each other fall. Our hearts grew because we knew we were going to make it. Has it been easy? not at all. Has it been rewarding? Yes, in more ways that I can begin to describe.

Harriet and I have a very unique relationship. We have our strengths and weaknesses and we have learned to depend on the other person for balance. We have been through a lot of good together, and a tremendous amount of heartache. We both knew that if we could overcome our professional and personal obstacles as two unified friends and partners, that COVID would bring us all out to a better place. Please don’t think it has all been rainbows. There were many times we sat in the booth together, emotionally worn and physically exhausted, but this only drove us to make it work.

In the beginning, we had our staff, the cast of characters, lip sync songs with our own unique lyrics for social media. We did not do this to make light of the situation, rather to bring smiles to a community scared and bewildered.  Harriet and I decided that titles were no longer a thing. Job descriptions went out the window. Not my job was a forbidden phrase. We were doing it all and making it work. We also saw a bond form between other local restaurant owners. The “us” verses “them” was no longer a thing. We came together as an industry, leaning on the other for support, comfort and answers.

We are both excited to slowly bring on pre-existing as well as new staff and teach them this new way of working, this new normal. We decided that the unknown of the new normal would be exciting rather than scary, opportunity and not loss. Our team has been tremendous. We have seen Nicole rise as an empowered business woman. We saw Scotty handle situations with a professionalism that gave us pause. Marcus went from a cook at Melt to a leader and a source of strength. Megan has kept a smile on her face when totally out of her comfort zone, as her bar was empty and her regulars sat in cars. And then there is Chef. Cory Bolton walked into an already very unique situation but instantly became family. His fresh perspective on things has helped lift our spirits. He brought on his longtime friend, José, just three days before the world changed. What an incredibly intimidating way to begin a new career. For a solid month, it was just chef and José working in the kitchen, but still sending out food too pretty to go into a box.  Day after day, they came to work with a positive attitude and smiles that were contagious. As a team and a family, we are making it work. I personally am not happy this has all happened, but it has given me a perspective on this industry and most importantly, life. I am so thankful for a business partner who is my rock and sounding board.

One thing I know to be true, is we will not let the other fall. I am eternally grateful for this team who took a horrible situation and created opportunity and hope. We don’t know what the future holds and the new normal is a scary and unknown place, but we take comfort in knowing we have each other, and that’s a very rare gift indeed. —Paget Pizitz

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