Tamekah Bost wasn’t sure if her business would survive when the novel coronavirus outbreak began in March.
Her Holmesburg restaurant, The Better Box, which is known for making hand-rolled egg rolls with a variety of fillings, could only offer take-out.
And her plans to open a second location in the Fairmount neighborhood in April were stalled, but she still had to pay the bills associated with both locations.
“I stayed in my faith because I knew eventually that I would be able to open the second location, so it was worth the burden,” she said.
Bost was finally able to open her second restaurant on June 12.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air because you’ve kind of been holding your breath the past three months not knowing if you would still be here with COVID,” she said.
“Now three months later, opening my second location is like a testament to my faith, my hard work and my customer support because we are still here. We’re doing well. We’re grateful for the opportunity to still make food that we love for the customers that we love.”
Bost is one of a handful of food entrepreneurs who have been able to succeed — and even grow their businesses — in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
Local and state government officials were ordering businesses to close to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in March just as Aaron Anderson was preparing to open his first Original Hot Dog Factory franchise in Center City.
Anderson had already invested in the business, hired employees and started making plans to open locations in the Bourse Food Hall and Fishtown.
“The majority of the reason that I decided to still open the Center City location was because I had hired employees prior to opening and I wanted to be able to keep them on the payroll and make sure they could keep providing for their families,” Anderson said.
He hasn’t made much profit at that location because the area has lacked foot traffic since area businesses and the Family Court of Philadelphia were closed for the last three months. With the court recently reopening, Anderson is hoping for an uptick in customers.
And Anderson is sticking with his expansion plans because things are already set in motion.
“For me, it’s just making the best of the current situation,” he said.
Kyle Cuffie-Scott was able to open a brick-and-mortar location for his bakery, Darnel’s Cakes, in Northern Liberties on June 7, after four years of operating from a shared kitchen and selling his goods at farmers’ markets and to wholesale clients.
The opening didn’t go quite as Cuffie-Scott expected; he had counted on being able to serve the people who worked in the offices at 444 N. 3rd St., where his bakery is, but many of them have been working remotely because of the pandemic.
Now, Cuffie-Scott said, “I kind of have to rely on my own advertising and my own pull to keep the business going.”
He’s currently open on Sundays and plans to add more days as business picks up.
“I’m kind of in an interesting place right now,” Cuffie-Scott said. “It’s just me and another partner. I don’t have a staff, so I can kind of come into it slowly. I can basically get my business going in this new world order that we’re under, until we get some consistency back.”
Darlene Jones, owner of Star Fusion in West Philadelphia, also was able to grow her business. This month, she opened an express version of her restaurant that fuses American, Caribbean and Thai cuisines.
“I had to add some of my personal perseverance in order to get this done,” Jones said.
And like Bost, she relied on her faith.
“I know that I just had to open and pray that everything was going to be OK,” Jones said.