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Businesses, patrons get creative to keep doors open in the future

Numinous Coffee Roasters

Scott Cain of Numinous Coffee Roasters bakes bread using safety precautions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Marble Falls coffee shop and bakery has reduced its hours, but, thanks to generous patrons, the staff is making bread for area food pantries and taking pastries to local first responders. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

It’s all changed.

That’s how Numinous Coffee Roasters owner Alex Payson summed up COVID-19’s effect on his and other businesses.

“There are a lot of places that have closed,” he said in front of his coffee shop, 715 RR 1431 in Marble Falls.

He’s working hard to keep Numinous going. Though he’s had to cut back the shop’s hours and days, it’s open and Payson’s managed to hold onto his staff.

With restaurants moving to drive-through and takeout only due to Governor Greg Abbott’s order and other businesses closing following Burnet County’s stay-at-home decree, local business owners have had to come up with creative ways to keep at least some cashflow moving.

Payson’s desire to help the community — with assistance from a couple of regular customers — was the force behind a COVID-19 business survival model.

Nikki Truhan hopes other businesses, especially restaurants, take note.

Truhan and her husband, David, settled permanently in the Highland Lakes about seven years ago. It was their retirement home, and they quickly fell in love with the area and its unique shops and restaurants.

“There are a lot of small businesses that we love and support, and Alex’s is one of those,” she said. “We wanted to come up with a way to help them. One of the things I realized is that I didn’t need to shop, but was there something I could do to help.”

One way to help was to support local first responders, such as fire, police, and EMS. However, instead of making direct donations, the Truhans came up with another plan. They approached Payson about buying pastries and other baked goods for first responders.

“We wanted to shore up the spirit of the first responders, but it also is a way to support Alex,” Nikki said.

The concept is simple. The Truhans order baked goods through Numinous and the coffee shop delivers them to the first responders. The purchases support the business as well as those on the front lines during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Truhans would love to see the idea spread to more restaurants and even other business. Nikki pointed out that if COVID-19 hits the Highland Lakes hard like it has other areas, it’s going to drastically affect hospitals and medical facilities, leaving those staffs with little time to make or purchase meals.

“What if we could get a group of like-minded people together and buy meals through our local restaurants, who would then deliver them to the hospital?” she said. “It would help the hospital staff and, hopefully, help keep some of our restaurants open.”

Though geared toward the food service industry, Truhan believes, with a little creativity, other businesses could do something similar.

Sometimes, just doing the right thing can help a business. Payson has experienced that as well. On March 19, The Helping Center of Marble Falls Executive Director Sam Pearce called Payson because the food pantry was out of bread. Grocery store shelves were empty as shoppers stocked up, leaving little for The Helping Center’s clients.

Payson committed to making about 50 loaves a day for the pantry, even as he faced a loss in business due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“But, you know, when word got out, customers came in and donated so we could make the bread,” Payson said. “We didn’t ask, but they’d come in and give $20. Some gave as much as $50.”

The money allowed Payson to continue baking bread for The Helping Center and keep his staff working. As other food pantries learned of Numinous’ efforts, they also reached out to Payson.

By March 26, Numinous was baking up to 160 loaves of bread daily with most of it going to The Helping Center, the First Baptist Church of Marble Falls food pantry, the Marble Falls Church of Christ food pantry, Mission Marble Falls, and the Highland Lakes Crisis Network.

Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jarrod Metzgar said there are a number of ways to support local businesses, no matter what services or products they offer. The chamber surveyed its members, asking them for ideas on how people could support them.

“We had probably 150 respond,” he said. “A lot were like, ‘We’re not sure what you can do.’ But others gave some good ideas, some I hadn’t thought about.”

The top way is something chamber and local leaders stress even when not in the middle of a health or economic crisis.

“Number one is I think we still have to remember to eat local and shop local,” Metzgar said. “I know now that’s tougher with the stay-at-home order and restaurants only serving takeout, but as much as we can, if we can buy local, it’s better. “

And if you have to buy online, try to make purchases through local stores’ websites.

Another thing people can do is buy gift cards from local shops and restaurants.

“Buying them now helps those businesses that are struggling right now,” he said. “Save them for later or give them to someone who might need something. If you buy a gift card from a restaurant, maybe give it to someone in health care. A lot of them aren’t getting to go shopping or things like that.”

If you are making summer plans, whether a winery tour or buying tickets for an event, don’t wait: Do it now. Metzgar pointed out that knowing people are coming, even if it’s several months down the road, gives a shot of optimism to a venue or business owner.

“The business owners, they’re really trying to keep their businesses going,” he added. “It’s tough. Anything we can do to support them, well, that helps.”

He noted that many businesses run specials on their social media accounts.

Metzgar is aware people might not have money to spend, either because they’ve lost their jobs, been furloughed, or are just unsure of what the next few weeks or months hold for them.

“Our social media person, Erika Sopel, she recommends people can support businesses and restaurants on their social media accounts. Just start following them,” Metzgar said. “And give them great reviews. It’s not something that may make a difference right now, but it will help them, especially down the road.”

The chamber has other ideas and information on supporting local businesses on its website.

While no one knows when the COVID-19 crisis will end, Metzgar said that, along with taking care of local businesses, we need to take care of each other.

“I think the key right now is just providing comfort and being kind,” he said. “Let’s just slow down and don’t panic. That’s something we all can do.”

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the coronavirus resources webpage.