Talk about bad timing.
On March 16, following months of construction, Max Ljahi was finally able to open the doors at Eddie’s Napolis, the Italian restaurant that he co-owns on North Preston Road in Prosper.
What he didn’t anticipate, however, was having to immediately convert the full-service eatery to accommodate only takeout and delivery orders.
Restaurants throughout North Texas – and the nation – have shuttered their dining rooms as a preventative measure against the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Eddie’s Napolis was no exception.
Ljahi reports that lunch and dinner business at the restaurant hasn’t suffered much as a result.
“We’re doing really good, to be honest with you. For what the situation is, I think we’re doing better than what we expected,” he said last week.
A Prosper resident, Ljahi said he’s using this time to reach out to the community by offering discounts on meals to first responders and partnering with others to provide food to those in need.
The current business climate is “very unfortunate,” he said, “but if you can’t control it, then try to make the best of it.”
That sentiment is echoed by other Prosper business owners.
Several have devised creative strategies for keeping their businesses operating during this unprecedented time.
Mike Daugherty is the owner and CEO of FUSE Workspace, whose three-story building on North Preston Road provides office and meeting spaces for its nearly 300 members who represent about 180 different businesses.
In mid-March, Daugherty said, as a precautionary measure, his staff reduced public access to the building and also limited the number of people allowed to attend group meetings there. Cleaning and sanitizing procedures at the building were also increased.
With the majority of workers now officing at home, FUSE’s corridors are quieter. Its facilities are currently open only to a handful of members whose duties have been deemed essential in their respective industries.
“The economy just kind of stopped on a dime,” said Daugherty, who also operates another FUSE location in Houston. “Long term, I think we’ll come out on the other side and be a very attractive solution” for those who desire alternative workspace options.
As it has previously, FUSE continues to support local charities and community causes. The business hosted a blood drive last month and plans to partner with First Baptist Prosper on April 21 for another.
Daugherty said his company is also working with the Prosper Economic Development Corporation to encourage FUSE members to take advantage of the federal loans, grants and programs that are available to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve really been impressed with the magnitude of funding that’s been made available to our businesses," said Prosper EDC Executive Director Mary Ann Moon.
Business owners, she said, “have got to apply for this money. It’s there for them.”
Mike Pettis owns The Gin, a popular restaurant, bar and live music venue in downtown Prosper.
“Our main goal is just to keep the doors open, lights on and the employees employed,” he said last week.
So far, Pettis has been successful.
In mid-March, the restaurant transitioned to accepting only take-out orders.
Customers are “showing up in droves” for items from The Gin’s abbreviated menu, he said, including fried chicken, hamburgers, fajitas and meatloaf, among others. A recent chili special was served with a to-go beer growler.
Pettis also plans to resume live entertainment soon, staging musical performances by artists who will be stationed on The Gin’s outdoor patio. Customers will be able to listen while waiting for food to be delivered to their vehicles.
Also, Pettis plans to host a virtual karaoke contest this month on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “We’re trying to keep it fresh by doing stuff like that and keep people enticed,” he explained.
The front door at Prosper Blooms, a florist and gift shop on West Broadway Street, is closed to the public.
However, on most days, owner Kambra Bacon works inside creating bouquets for customers who continue to place phone and online orders.
Bacon said she has remained open for business “mostly because I feel like at this time there really is a need for fresh flowers - something happy, something pretty, something uplifting in homes” and residential facilities, especially as people are isolating to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Overall sales at Prosper Blooms “are definitely down significantly,” Bacon said, due largely to cancellations of weddings and other events. She has also had difficulty securing certain varieties of flowers from suppliers throughout the nation and around the world.
Local business is still bustling, however, as people continue to have plants and flowers delivered in honor of birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.
Bacon even created a floral arrangement with harried parents and homeschooling children in mind.
The “sunflower kit” contains seeds and soil that youngsters can plant and watch grow as a sort of science experiment. It also features a blooming sunflower for Mom or Dad to enjoy.
Bacon said she feels “fortunate. … I’m able to keep the lights on, able to pay the staff, but I don’t know how much longer we can go.”