Over the past few months, restaurants have had to adapt their business models to the changing situation on the ground. And in many cases, those adaptations have had to be both quick and continuous.
“We didn’t really have an active website prior to March,” says Tiffany Cable, owner of the popular Spokane Valley bakery the Blissful Whisk. “Within two weeks, we were able to launch a website where people could preorder things.”
Though normally surrounded by a seven-person staff, Cable was forced to work solo at that point. She alternated production and sales days. Mondays were pastry-box days. Cookies were on Wednesdays. Cinnamon rolls were on Saturdays.
“I went from selling maybe 10 six-packs of cinnamon rolls per week to doing like 76 packs. It really helped me to stay alive… the local community really came out for me.”
Soon she started preparing and freezing chicken pot pies that customers could take home and bake themselves.
“People will get those for their family for dinner for the week, and the next week they reorder. I changed the way I did things to accommodate people who were cooking more at home,” she says. Cable has since been able to rehire nearly all of her employees at least on a part-time basis.
But as the Blissful Whisk and other local businesses have quickly shifted to new models, organizations like the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce have doubled down on their longtime roles. At the start, the chamber aimed to channel the emerging public health guidelines and economic relief opportunities into a single information stream.
“We actually called our membership five total times directly, just to check in and see what they needed as assistance,” says Lance Beck, the chamber’s president and CEO. “As they identified current questions that they had, we connected them with one of the experts on our team or one of our expert partners. Honestly, if there’s one thing I’m most proud of, it’s that direct outreach t— in the chaos of that moment, it was one of the things we could do that was unexpected by our local business community and a way for us to solve one of their problems.”
Along with guiding businesses through the various grant application processes, the chamber has secured $1.2 million from the city of Spokane Valley’s CARES Act funding. That will help “get real cash into businesses’ hands for assistance.”
For restaurants, however, Beck acknowledges that “being eligible to be open doesn’t mean it’s profitable to be open.” Closing and reopening takes a psychological as well as an economic toll. Laying off staff, even if only temporarily, has knock-on destabilizing effects. The ongoing adjustments aren’t always guaranteed to work.
But with a little community solidarity, Beck believes it’s possible to stabilize.
“How do we get through it?” he asks. “People continue to find ways to patronize the businesses, and we’re able to keep businesses afloat through actual, in-person sales or the various support programs. The first step is being kind to those we work with and are surrounded with. We’re all in it together.”
Made-from-scratch pastries, cookies, cakes and even puppy treats are all available via curbside pickup at the Blissful Whisk, 1612 N. Barker Rd. #101. You can even order online at blissfulwhisk.com; hours are limited in the month of August, so check in ahead.