A retro-themed diner in Grand Falls-Windsor is appealing for cash donations — both as a way to keep open, and to send meals to health care and emergency workers in the community.
Since March 25, Appy's Diner has turned the pay-it-forward approach into a key part of their operating plan. Owner Mitch Strickland said he's taken in about $2,000 in donations, and has used that money to cook 170 meals so far.
"It's not enough for us [to turn a] profit or nothing, but it's helping me pay the bills and keep the doors open for the public and keep a couple of workers going," Strickland said.
"The biggest thing is that we're helping the community and feeding those essential workers, so I'm happy with what we're doing."
So far, meals have gone out to paramedics, to the hospital's emergency department and to local pharmacies — and more food is on the way.
"I'll bring down 14 snacks, some days we'll mix it up we'll do some chicken burgers or wings, the other day I baked a lasagna and brought it down," Strickland said in an interview.
"A friend of mine baked 10 dozen cookies and dropped off, so we're going to bring the cookies down today as well."
He says he gives each donor a shoutout on the diner's Facebook page, and is hoping for the buzz — which has been slowly building — to continue.
'Donations have helped a lot'
Strickland says the first donation came from his cousin, shortly after he laid off his staff and took over the kitchen himself.
More donations came in from other family members — and that, combined with the federal government's promise that some businesses could receive a wage subsidy for its employees — was enough to hire back a few staff.
Some people who received meals decided to pay it forward with donations of their own.
Now, Strickland said the donation side of his business makes up about half of all the money he's taking in, along with the few orders he's getting for takeout.
"Just today it's 3 o'clock and we've had two customers," Strickland said Tuesday.
"It will pick up the supper time, but the donations have helped a lot, and they keep us going throughout the week."
Strickland opened up Appy's last year, and was looking forward to his first full summer of business — a time when he was hoping to make some money, and pay down his loans.
"Since Christmas, it's been rough anyways," he said. "And everyone told me in the business 'you're going to suffer for a couple of months, and look forward to the summer' — but this pretty much shut us down."
"All our tables and chairs are up."
He'd like to see his new model replicated at other restaurants and in other communities across Newfoundland.
He said the pay-it-forward approach has allowed the restaurant to stay open, when many business are putting up the closed sign and locking their doors.
"To be honest, down the road, I'm hoping that people remember that we're trying to help out the community and in turn the community will help us out," he said.
"I'll do it until the money runs out, I'll put it that way. Until I can't do it no more."