Imagine for a moment — and I realize that this may not require much imagination on your part, for some, but for the rest of us — imagine for a moment that you saved as much of your meager paycheck as you could, month after month for years, until you had enough that a bank would then loan you even more, maybe four or five times your savings, so that you could open your own business. It’s sort of the American dream, isn’t it? People all over this country quit jobs that pay well to do that thing they always wanted to do, maybe to turn their hobby into a business, their passion into their livelihood. A lot of wineries are like that. Breweries and distilleries as well. My parents’ bookstore, in small town Nebraska, is like that. Maybe your business is like that, too.
“The phrase that defines the soul of this nation,” I told my father earlier today on the phone, “Or perhaps the lack thereof, is ‘too big to fail’.” Banks, airlines — I just can’t feel sympathetic for these companies when, next door, my neighbor whose full time job is running Omaha’s recreational baseball league is telling me that, despite there being no teams and no season this year, he’s going to continue paying his staff. He admitted, that may not be sustainable forever, but it is the only right thing to do and he’s going to make it work for as long as possible. My father told me on the phone that the Educational Service Unit board that he is on will be meeting, via Zoom of course, next week. On the agenda: can they continue to pay paras and nurses. I told him that they’d better find a way if they wanted to have paras and nurses when the schools reopened, but he was way ahead of me on that one. Why? It’s the right thing to do. And just a little while ago, I read that the CEO of Texas Road House was donating his salary for a year to ensure that their line cooks get paid while their restaurants are closed. I had no plans ever to return to Texas Road House. I will now.
All across the world, this pandemic is impacting us all in different ways. Sonja and I are lucky; we are both working from home and getting paid while we do it. It’s a best case scenario that many are no so fortunate to experience, we know. Just today, a friend who owns a very small winery in Napa told me that Napa is actually experiencing a drought right now. I had no idea, but I can only imagine how that might complicate things in an industry that is already populated largely by small family businesses that are suffering mightily while everything from their tasting room to the restaurants who sell their wine is closed down and in quarantine.
It’s easy to feel helpless, isn’t it? I know it is for me. I’ve been publishing a series of blogs asking people to support small wineries in this tough time. You can read the first two here:
Beyond that, I feel trapped in the house, and spend as much time working or writing as I am able. I can still tell a hawk from a handsaw… but just barely. So tonight, in the hope of reclaiming some normalcy while at the same time supporting local business, I called up the local brewery and ordered three pizzas and four “crowlers” of beer for pickup. I don’t actually need 128 ounces of beer, but Sonja and I wanted to support Vis Major, the brewery that’s three blocks from our house, and which we regularly walk to for dinner under more normal circumstances. We want them to still be there when this is all over, so we realize that we need to support them now, in a time that’s difficult for little businesses.
I can’t count the number of times Sonja and I had semi-serious talks about buying local wine shops, opening restaurants, even a winery. Sonja is risk-averse, I am not, and this is yet another instance in which I am glad to have listened to my wife. I know that the people who read my blog are all over the place, so what I’ll ask of you now is, if you don’t have dinner plans, why not make it pizza night — or burger night, or wing night, or whatever your local brewpub makes that you like? If you, like me, are struggling at times to feel useful during this period, then it’s a small thing you can do that may just make the difference for one of your favorite small local eateries, for someone who gave up a normal, reliable job to turn their dream into their livelihood.
If you do happen to be in Omaha, check out vismajorbrewing.com. I’m pretty excited about the apricot ale aged in brandy barrels I ordered. Oh, and if you’re looking for reading material beyond the ramblings of a high school English teacher/sommelier who is gradually going mad before your very eyes, you could always order a book from my mom and dad at plainstrading.com. As always, thanks for reading. I’ll be back with another edition of The Conscientious Consumer in Quarantine for you tomorrow. Until then, take good care.