As we isolate to beat COVID-19 like so many communities around us and around the world, many businesses are closing or scaling back quietly. The Thistle Inn and Restaurant took a different approach to closing. Before owners Anya and Dick Reid decided March 17 to shutter their business until further notice, they had their soon-to-be unemployed workers and the community in mind: Free dinner with encouragement for big tips.
“In the restaurant business, a lot of these kids live paycheck to paycheck. They’re the type of people that have a busy schedule, long hours, and workload is hard,” said Dick. “These kids, they needed as much as we could give them. We wanted to do that.”
Anya said the Thistle is giving all leftover perishable items to Boothbay Region Community Resource Council to distribute through its Food for Thought program and to the food pantry and Meals on Wheels programs through Boothbay Harbor Congregational Church. The Reids also said they are working with Sysco, one of the last food trucking companies still making runs, to make a safe delivery directly to BRCRC.
“Obviously, between our employees and ourselves, we're not going to be able to go through all the product that's going to be left in-house,” Anya said. “We felt it was the responsible and safe thing to do. We wanted to figure out how to get rid of as much as possible and help our employees.”
As for the pre-peak season closing, Anya said: “We felt that there's a bigger picture than sort of limping along … and putting people at risk just wasn't worth it. If we're not going to reopen anytime soon, we might as well go out with a bang, right? And know that we did everything we could in our efforts to help the situation, help other people.”
Dick said financial stability needs to take a backseat to all the other problems at hand, like making sure everyone in the community has food, water and shelter; and pooling resources to ensure everyone’s needs are met. The Thistle has done all it could toward those ends by feeding, donating and shutting down, he said. “I guess I would say that we will reopen, but not until it's safe for everybody to walk through that door.”
The Reids said other businesses will make their own decisions and that is something they continue to respect because everyone needs to switch gears and shutting down happened to be the best decision for the Thistle. The priorities are social distancing to defeat coronavirus and meeting everyone’s needs in the meantime. “Then we can worry about what happens afterwards,” said Dick.
“Right now, we're taking this one day at a time while looking three days ahead,” said Anya. “That's all we can do right now … I'm not sure how to navigate this. Whatever way we can help, we will and we'll continue to do so.”
Said Dick, “I think people in general are really good. People have love, people have passion, people care about the greater whole. Now is the time for people to step up and show that. Now is the time to step up and do what needs to be done.”