Next time you’re jonesing for a bottle of soda, keep an eye out for Cody Crawford’s photo.
The restaurant manager and chef at Elliott’s Restaurant in Little Current on Manitoulin Island is being featured on 50,000 bottles of Jones Soda as part of its Unsung Heroes campaign.
The craft soda company, known for its unconventional flavours and user-designed labels, is releasing an eight-bottle series honouring those who might not have been labeled essential workers, but have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 without recognition.
The collection is expected to hit store shelves this month, and Crawford’s family is waiting in anticipation for their personalized bottles.
“It’s awesome, and it’s pretty bizarre if you think about it. They will be sending a case of the bottles to our house, and I think it will be really funny to see it in person,” said Crawford about having his face on a Jones Soda label.
“I have friends in Ottawa that are going to be looking out for it, and my wife’s family from all across Canada, some on the east coast and some on the west coast, and they are all out searching for these bottles.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard with many establishments being forced to close their doors permanently.
When the pandemic struck in March, Crawford saw most of his coworkers at Elliott’s laid off, including his wife, who has worked at the restaurant as a manager for about five years.
To make ends meet for his family and keep Elliott’s afloat, Crawford has been working long shifts five days a week. His role as manager now means washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, and serving customers himself.
“My wife and I were both managers at the restaurant in Little Current. When the pandemic started, my wife got laid off and there was only a total of three workers at the time. I was one of them,” said Crawford.
“During the summer season, the hours definitely got longer. We were reaching up to 17-hour days.”
Crawford’s wife, Taylor Cote, initially entered him into the contest.
“I got an email from Jones one day explaining the Unsung Heroes campaign, and when I read the description, it made me think of Cody,” she said.
“In my submission, I explained that I had been laid off and he was still working very hard, working long days. I had gotten pregnant in March with our new baby, so he was taking on the extra workload at home, as well, because I was a little bit more tired running around with our toddler all day.”
Cote expressed how scary it was for her husband to be an essential worker during a pandemic, especially during the early days of the provincial lockdown.
“We didn’t know a lot about the virus at the time, so it was very unexpected going into work not knowing what was going to happen and how it was going to be,” she said.
“He was doing a lot for the family and the business, and I guess Jones Soda liked the story.”
Although the pandemic has been tough, Crawford said the community of Little Current has been supportive of the restaurant industry.
“It has slowed down, but during the first lockdown, we still had a lot of locals coming in. They were consistent, and people still wanted to go out to eat,” he said.
“This lockdown has been a bit slower, but we are in the middle of the slow season, so that makes sense.”
Elliott’s is owned by Jason and Jodie Elliott, who took over the restaurant in 2015. The restaurant services all-day breakfast and classic Canadian cuisine and offers beer from some of Manitoulin’s local breweries.
Jones Soda’s Unsung Heroes campaign will feature different photos of groups or people who took extraordinary steps to help others during a difficult year.
Examples include a firefighter at the Skyxe Saskatoon International Airport, and a non-profit organization that has delivered 55-gallon barrels of clean, potable drinking water to remote areas of the Navajo Nation since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The series will appear on Jones’s Green Apple Soda bottles in Canada and the United States with a total print run of 500,000.
Consumers can also use Jones’s custom label program to order personalized bottles spotlighting unsung heroes in their own lives.
They can also nominate their personal hero by submitting a photo to the Jones photo gallery for possible inclusion on a future bottle.
For more information, visit www.jonessoda.com/products/myjones-custom-labeled-soda.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star