As the pandemic disrupts life across the globe, everyone is being forced to adapt and make sacrifices during the unprecedented crisis. None may be more affected than small businesses, with many being forced to temporarily shutter or adapt operations due to a new normal ushered in by state regulations and social distancing measures.
According to a recent study from SmartAsset, the City of Falls Church ranks third overall in best places for small businesses and more than 29 percent of City residents depend on small business income, the fifth highest figure in the state.
The News-Press has asked Falls Church area businesses to share their pandemic challenges and struggles and how the virus has affected operations and the adaptations they’ve had to make in response. Each week, we’ll be sharing their stories.
Today’s featured business: Root & Stem.
Root & Stem catering has been located in Falls Church since early 2012. Over the last 8 years we have grown into one of the top caterers in the area. The changes due to COVID-19 came quickly and were fierce. What seemed like overnight we went from 60-70 events a day and preparing for a crazy Spring season to absolutely nothing. Our kitchen which used to run 6 days a week 24 hours a day is now empty.
We were immediately surrounded by questions with no answers and only difficult, hard and painful decisions. Our industry operates on razor thin margins. Our staff live on razor sharp budgets. Some work two jobs, all have families, and all of our lives have been changed. What could we as a company do? We could not keep paying our staff of 50 employees or else we would have run out of money. One week into the quarantine period we had to call everyone of them and announce that we were laying off our entire staff. We are going to cover their health care and other benefits, but we couldn‘t provide checks for the first time ever.
That night we decided, if we can’t pay our staff, we will find a way to let them know they aren’t alone and that we are all in this together. Doing what we do best, which is to cook and to serve. We started our Family Meal. Everyone of our staff, their families and any vendors that is out of work has been welcome. We cook for between 100-150 every Tuesday and Thursday now. We have less than 5 volunteers come in to help prepare and package and follow all physical distancing and heavy sanitation standards. The meals are picked up by one family member and taken back to their homes to eat. We are no longer sharing this meal together as we had for so many years, we are no longer hugging and high fiving as we did through all our successes over the years. But what we have been able to do is let all our staff know we are with them, they are not forgotten and we will get through this together.
We have recently added on a local company that has bought into our Family Meal and provided their staff of 11 meals for their families. They are paying and we have money now to pay those volunteers that have been coming in to help. We have just been approached by Cornerstones and Embry Rucker shelter in Reston. They have a need for someone to provide meals for the shelter. We were hired to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner on April 23rd. All the money will be used to pay our staff and buy food. It means so much now to be able to provide a paycheck again for some of the staff. A GoFundMe page has been started and we will cook for as long as we can while we raise money.
Even though we are all apart at this time, we have found a way to try to be together thru food and feeding those in need.
— Craig Currie, Root & Stem owner, chef and operator
2941 Fairview Park Dr, Suite 110., Falls Church 22042, rootandstemdc.com
Tell us the history of your Falls Church small business, how the virus has affected your operation and the adaptations, struggles and more you’re facing during this unprecedented crisis. Photos, along with the commentaries, are welcome and encouraged. Please send submissions, up to 500 words, to [email protected]