Aiken Small Business Restaurants Rebound Amid Pandemic; concerns about inflation, COVID

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AIKEN, SC (WJBF) — Small business owners in Aiken say they are bouncing back amid the pandemic. But, they are still concerned about inflation and COVID-19. “Before the pandemic. We were still in the growth phase,” Village Cafe general manager Jason Tufts told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken bureau chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Small business owners say they weren’t sure what to expect when the pandemic hit in 2020. “It was really scary. We had no idea what was coming,” added A Steller Kitchen owner Jen Steller.

Business owners say sales have plummeted. “It was probably about 15% of sales, total lost during the time we had to be closed,” Tufts explained. “We saw a big drop in numbers, a big moment,” Steller recalled.

Restaurants like A Steller’s kitchen have pivoted to stay open. “We started to think outside the box, you know, open up outside, open up, you know, delivery services,” she said.

“Probably after the last lift, that’s when everyone started coming back.” Ajor Johnson, the cook at the Village Cafe.

Now customers are back inside and dining at their favorite spots. But they fear inflation will disrupt their plans. The cost of groceries, gas, everything has had a huge impact on our prices, which I don’t want to increase. It’s a daily struggle, because from today to tomorrow it can change in a few dollars,” Steller said. “I have trouble finding the normal products that I use. The beauty of it is just being creative. Charging for everything at once to try and get a lot of money is not a good deal,” Tufts added.

“I haven’t seen any difference, seriously. I mean, coffee is the same price. Food is about the same price. THE Village Café Customer Claudio Horned said.

Protocols are also in place to protect the health of their customers and employees. “We came into contact with one of our workers who did indeed catch COVID. So we had to shut down, and everyone in every worker got tested and we didn’t come back until everyone tested negative. And we made sure to take extra precautions to get everyone vaccinated, as far as staffing goes,” Johnson explained. “We went from nobody in the parking lot for, but now we have, you know, five or six, seven or eight, nine or 10, you know, and it’s all scattered throughout the day,” Steller said.

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