KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Julie Stanley is so glad to see her customers and staff back at Food Dance, she said.
They’ve been open for a few weeks and come next Tuesday August 4, patrons will be able to dine outside in their parking lot.
“We just decided we could do that,” Stanley said during an interview with Fox 17. “It really seems like it’s far away from me, from the restaurant. But the staff were all like ‘yes, let’s do it.’ And I said ‘OK.’ And, actually it came together pretty quick.”
Stanley’s husband Ed and a friend put up a large white tent in the parking lot and put a wooden fence around it. They also included a few flower pots and a folding table that Stanley painted vegetables on top of.
She’s going to spend the next few days painted more tables for the tent as well, she said.
“Then we bought some $10 chairs, old-schoolhouse chairs,” Stanley said. “The staff are very excited about it. We know we want people outside dining. So this was the closest we can get.”
Food Dance adding an outdoor dining option is new, she said. Since returning from the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, customers have been asked to wear masks and remain socially distant.
The staff too, she said.
She’s grateful she was able to bring 33 of her former staff back once the executive order was lifted. The shutdown was a difficult time for them and her, she said.
“I applied for PPP money. That literally was a weeks worth of work and stress,” Stanley recalled. “We did receive some, so that’s helping. And most just trying to figure out how we’ll survive financially. And how were the staff. We worked so hard to make sure they got their unemployment.”
And, they did, she said. They also set up a GoFundMe account to help them as well.
However all the stress reminded her of another challenge they’d just previously overcome.
“Eighteen months before that we had a fire,” Stanley said. “So it was a little deja vu. And it was a very stressful PTSD thing.”
However, she persevered. So did her staff.
Now they’re getting ready to open outdoor dining for their customers. She doesn’t know what the future holds but they’re ready for it.
“We’re 25 years old this year. So that is a huge milestone and it’s been a huge struggle for the last two years,” Stanley said. “The restaurants scene is going to change again and I hope we all survive. But we’re really closer as a community as restaurants right now then we’ve ever been. So that’s parts really cool.”
***Video will be added shortly***