How Coronavirus Impacts One Manatee Restaurateur - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

How Coronavirus Impacts One Manatee Restaurateur

Chef Rich Demarsh and Sous Chef Dylan Quatromani of Mar Vista restaurant serving meals on Easter Sunday. COURTESY ED CHILES

From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

Today, we meet Manatee County business owner Ed Chiles.

Ed Chiles is keeping his two restaurants — Mar Vista in Longboat Key and Beach House in Bradenton Beach — open. But that’s only for takeout.

And because the restaurants are no longer running at full capacity, there’s a surplus of produce at his organic farm.

Chiles tells us in his own words how he and his staff are managing during this global pandemic.

Listen to this audio postcard.

Person in bunny costume in front of restaurant

The Sandbar Restaurant offered family meal pick ups on Easter Sunday. CREDIT COURTESY ED CHILES

“Our restaurant family is doing okay, but it’s a very, very difficult time for the business and for our people. There’s no question about that. We have two of our restaurants are still open. They have takeout menus to try to continue to serve the community. We’re trying to make sure that we do that in a way where we’re observing all the protocols and keeping our people safe, and the people that we serve safe. That’s something that we look at, not a daily basis anymore, but still a weekly basis.

We have an organic farm– 26 acres where we grow organic produce herbs, a lot of brassicas, squashes, wild pumpkins, sunflowers, a lot of things that we use in our restaurants. We have surplus so we’re trying to put that to good use. We’re trying to do things to be proactive.

Close-up of produce

Gamble Creek Farm produce box. CREDIT COURTESY ED CHILES

We’re doing an organic half bushel produce box from our Gamble Creek Farm that’s been very popular for people. We’re selling 100 of those a week. We’re also assisting the Meals on Wheels PLUS in Manatee County and donating and delivering boxes to them for the people that they’re serving that really have a lot of needs.

We were fortunate to join a program by the Garden Club of Longboat Key where they made a $10,000 grant to get those boxes out to people in need, and we matched that and then had some other matches come in like Papos Taqueria came in and did a $5,000 max.

So we’re gonna probably provide about 1,000 of those boxes to her community– that’s keeping our people at the farm employed and also at Worden Farm, who was our partners at Gamble Creek Farm.

We’re helping the soup kitchen at Our Daily Bread from Turning Points, delivering bulk produce to them. And we’re trying to get information to our folks about all of the things that they can avail themselves to help them to our team, our staff, for the three restaurants.

We’re doing a grocery list, as well, from the two restaurants, that’re doing takeout. We’ve got our bakery still going.

So you know, on a day to day basis, we’re just trying to adjust and to be creative where we can and to get through this but it’s a difficult time, there’s no question.

We need to follow the science here, and we don’t want to be reactionary in terms of how we adjust to this because I think it’s important that we get through it as quickly and as safely as possible.

So, I think the best way to do that is following the science. We’ve got great scientists, they’re working overtime on this. Hopefully we can get this testing going. The thing that’s driving so much of this is fear. And so you know, if we can get really a great amount of testing, if we can see where hotspots are, if we can do the tracing that goes along with that, then maybe that can allow us to try to remove some of this fear and start opening back up prior to a vaccine.

Ed Chiles in front of cart

Gamble Creek Farms dropping off produce to Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Bradenton. CREDIT COURTESY ED CHILES

 

But I think in the long run, that’s going to be where we need to get and unfortunately, that’s a long way out.”

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