Photo by Alexander Lamsam

A Joseph’s customer (left) is having her food for curbside pickup handed to her by Mary Kohler (right) of Joseph’s. Many will recognize this situation, as curbside pickup has become a more popular way of ordering food from restaurants in the time of the pandemic.

Joseph’s Restaurant hanging on with the help of community

“I don’t think that closing bars, bars and restaurants, I don’t think closing them was the answer. I think he could restrict our hours, you know, keep us at 50 percent. Do anything else but closing us down did not help,” Joe Kohler, manager of Joseph’s, explained when asked about Minnesota’s new COVID-19 restrictions that went into effect in the middle of November. Joseph’s Family Restaurant is working just as hard as any other restaurant to stay afloat through the pandemic. The whole world was caught off guard by the coronavirus, so businesses would have had no plan in place to prepare for the pandemic and its effect on the economy. This is evident by looking at any business, as everyone does their best to make it through the pandemic.

The Payment Protection Program (PPP) is a loan program provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is designed to help small businesses stay afloat by providing a loan that can be used to pay business expenses such as payroll, rent, and utilities, as well as interest on debt obligations and mortgages. Even this $669-billion loan program has not been enough to keep small businesses alive, as research from September showed that 88 percent of U.S. small businesses had already exhausted their PPP loan. 

“None of the bumps that we’ve had over 46 years compare to this. We’ve gone through 36 being redone. We’ve gone through our frontage road being redone. We’ve gone from going to a restaurant with like a little breakfast corner to a restaurant with a full bar. Y’know we’ve gone through blizzards. We’ve gone through electrical … outages and never in 46 years have we had to deal with being shut down …  those bumps in the road, I’d take those back in a heartbeat to have compared what has been done to us,” Kohler enumerated various bumps in the road that Joseph’s Restaurant has had in its time being a part of the community. Nobody could have expected something as big of a deal as the pandemic, and as such, nothing else compares to it.

The aid that community members – both adults and youth – can provide for struggling small businesses is essential for their survival. While youth may not be able to help out financially the way that adults can, they definitely have their places to contribute. Community members everywhere have been doing their best to help their small local businesses holding on. Eating out is the best way to help out local restaurants, but this is made difficult by the combined factors of unemployment, only one stimulus check so far, risk of safety, and coronavirus guidelines. Despite this, citizens have still been a great help, even the youth.

“Every one of them: from the beginning, in the 70s, until now. I think Stillwater has the best group of hard working, dedicated students,” Kohler is grateful, and feels blessed to have such a supportive community. It is clear just how important and powerful the youth is, their vast capabilities, regardless of their age.

None of the bumps that we’ve had over 46 years compare to this.”

— Joe Kohler

The coronavirus hit the U.S. in March, nearly nine months ago. Back then, people thought this would all be over within a few months. All it takes is one glance at the U.S. to see just how wrong we were. While it seems like things could not get any worse, experts warn otherwise, that the worst is yet to come. With winter coming quickly, and over 200,000 infections and 100,000 hospitalizations in a single day, it looks like it’s downhill from here. January feels like a part of last year for many, as the year of 2020 is associated with the pandemic, the couple months prior to this ginormous shift in way of life feel alien. 

“You know, you get used to it, like, I can’t even remember the days that there wasn’t COVID,” Bryce Albrecht, employee of Joseph’s, is in the same boat as many. January, February and the beginning of March have been dissociated with 2020 in the minds of many, as the stark difference between life before and during the pandemic is abundantly clear. 

The power of choice, from the decision to wear a mask to socially distancing. These are two of the countless decisions all citizens have been having to make in the time of the pandemic. The little, everyday decisions that citizens are making affect the spread of the virus. A single person’s decision to either wear a mask or not wear one, and to socially distance or not, can in fact either cause or prevent an outbreak in that area. Factors including mask-wearing and social distancing combine with properties such as the virus’ transmissibility to determine the spread of the virus.

To exemplify the exponential behavior of the coronavirus: it took 100 days for the U.S. to reach 1 million cases, 44 days to pass 2 million, and currently, only five days to rack up another million. Where it stands now, the country has passed 15 million cases, and this number only grows as we’re in the middle of the most severe surge so far. The power of choice is evident, and everyone has a part to play as we all struggle through this pandemic together.

“I think that he … needs to let people make decisions for themselves. I, for one, I understand that, if you have to wear a mask, I’m going to do it in public. I don’t like it, I don’t want to, but I will do it. I think that people are tired of being told what to do and how to do it and how to live,” Kohler can relate to other citizens as, regardless of how cumbersome it may be, he understands the importance of wearing a mask. It would be impossible to control each and every citizen and force them to wear a mask, so it is up to each person to make that decision for themselves. 

Adults and youth alike have all been affected by the pandemic. This generation of youth will be forever changed in the sense that this is likely the biggest and most life-changing event for anyone. The pandemic hit at a time that a large number of teens would be finding jobs and beginning to make their own money. But with the coronavirus, the previous record-low unemployment rates went through the roof. The unemployment rates went from 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April. Youth employment this past July compared to July last year is down to 46.7 percent from 56.2 percent. At a time when students and teens would be learning and gaining experience for future events, they are stuck in quarantine risking their mental health. 

“We need to learn stuff so that we can kind of keep the town and the world going in a good direction, you know, I’d say the youth is really important,” Albrecht reminded us that the youth are our future.

It is essential for the entire country and world that the youth learn what they need to learn in order to keep the world running. Children and teens have had to make do with what they have during the pandemic, while still growing and making a contribution to society if they are able to. Everyone is just doing their best to make it through the pandemic. 

Joseph’s will continue to do its best to stay afloat, as will any other small local business. However, they can not do it without the help of the community members. While no one has overcome an ongoing event such as the pandemic, Joseph’s has proven to be able to withstand the test of time. With the combined help of the government, community, youth, teamwork and cooperation, Joseph’s is no going down without a fight. 

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