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feasible.” They’ve since found better success through pickup and outdoor patio service, although sales are still far off from what they used to be. In Chapel Hill, Garret Fleming and Eleanor Lacy, the brother-andsister duo behind Big Belly Que in Blue Dogwood Public Market, cut back their hours and, for a while, stopped offering their wood-smoked barbecue completely, instead switching to heat-at-home meals for pickup or delivery. Eleanor offered to drop off meals herself in the surrounding neighborhoods, close to where she lives. “In some ways it’s been really rewarding, getting to meet new people,” she says of her new delivery route. For Kaleb Harrell, CEO and cofounder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare, thinking outside of the box has been key. He and the other founders – ABOVE Tre serves up a plate of barbecue ribs with sides of macaroni and cheese, Kin Ho, Chee Cheng “Allen” Lo and collard greens, fried okra and red velvet cake. BELOW A model of the restaurant Wayne Yung – opened the location made by a customer five years ago still holds a place of honor in the lobby. in University Place as the shutdown went into effect in March. “We “I said, ‘We gotta do jokingly say, ‘If you could pick the something,’” Tre explains. “The worst weekend to open a restaurant first weekend after the shutdown, in the last 100 years, we nailed it,’” we gave away 900 meals.” He Kaleb says. now estimates the restaurant “We’ve had to take a really hard donates about 500 meals a week look at our business model,” Kaleb and says he has no plans to stop. continues. “We’ve had to prioritize For these and other safety over profit. I think one day the restaurants, there was no right dine-in restaurant experience will way to do business anymore. It normalize, but until then we need to was just a matter of trying find a way to stay in business.” to survive. For Hawkers, that has meant things like bottling and selling some of their sauces and even building and selling restaurant partitions out of their central woodshop to other eateries. ith differing responses from local, state and federal When It’s a Southern Thing on Main Street in Durham officials, it was sometimes confusing for restaurant owners switched to takeout, owner Pete Susca had to lay off about 30 to know where to turn for help. The Paycheck Protection members of his staff. “That was far and away the hardest thing Program (PPP), a loan program meant to allow businesses I’ve ever had to do.” to keep employees on the payroll, for instance, had a The Chicken Hut owner Tre Tapp was instilled with a sense of number of restrictions on who qualified. community responsibility at a young age. As schools shut down and Chapel Hill’s Que Chula Tacos on West Franklin Street opened its Tre tried to navigate the new landscape, he knew he still had to doors in the middle of the pandemic on May 7. “We couldn’t get any help his neighbors. So, the restaurant partnered with Healthy Start help from the government because we had no previous payroll,” explains Academy to give away free meals to local kids. co-owner Jose Ramirez. “Everything has come out of pocket.” 

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LOAN LIFELINE

Profile for Shannon Media

Durham Magazine Sept 2020  

The Food and Drink Issue

Durham Magazine Sept 2020  

The Food and Drink Issue

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