With Gov. Kate Brown's executive order for Oregonians to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, restaurants have been among the hardest hit small businesses as owners are now limited to selling takeout orders.
During the economic crisis, Hubbard business owners Shaun and Larry George — co-owners of Northwest Hazelnut Company — are taking it upon themselves to help local restaurants that have been struck by the lack of dine-in customers.
A locally owned food processing company deemed an essential business that is allowed to maintain operations during the closures, Northwest Hazelnut Company has been purchasing meals for its employees at surrounding restaurants to help improve morale and support neighboring businesses.
"When we saw this coming, we decided to buy lunch for every employee in the company two or three days a week. For many of our employees, their spouses have lost their jobs, and locally owned restaurants in the area are hit hard," said Shaun George. "We work from a predictable menu with restaurant owners that helps keep them efficient and enhances profits while giving our employees a break from the cost and inconvenience of bringing in lunch."
Sisters Stacey Chapman and Janae Chapman have owned the Aurora Colony Pub in rural Marion County for five years. Shaun George has been a regular customer for years and saw an opportunity to support the Chapman sisters in a time of need. Other businesses still in operation have followed suit.
"We couldn't keep going without support from other local businesses who have stepped up regular orders — companies like Columbia Helicopters, a local credit union, even Burgerville— are placing orders," Stacey Chapman said. "In return, we are trying to do the same. We're trying to do everything local because that's the heart of everything."
The George brothers first called Stacey and Janae on March 17 to deliver over 50 lunches to their staff and crew at the Hubbard plant, following up with a weekly Friday order for about 50 lunches for the foreseeable duration of the Stay Home Order. They have since added additional restaurants in Woodburn and Wilsonville to their employee takeout menu.
"It's about small business helping small business," said Shaun George. "It worked so well last week that this week we added another restaurant. We're now buying lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays for everyone in the company, and we hope to add a third — El Tule Taqueria in Woodburn — next week."
This week, the Georges added another favorite lunch spot, Joy Teriyaki of Wilsonville, setting up Tuesday take-outs for 50 or more weekly lunches.
"Words don't properly convey how much Northwest Hazelnut Company's support means to me," said Justin Hwang, President of Joy Teriyaki. "They've started ordering 40 to 50 teriyaki bowls from my Wilsonville restaurant weekly, which has kept that mom and pop operation up and running."
Stacey Chapman concurred, "I can't say how much those of us at Aurora Colony Pub appreciate the George's efforts. Their staff are frequent customers, and their weekly order is large enough that it's helped us tremendously."
Once delivered to the front office, Northwest Hazelnut Company's COVID-19 safety officer and regulatory specialist, Claudia Arreola, has drafted policies to implement the governor's order and maintain social distance between employees. Measures include staggering lunch shifts and following a sanitizing protocol between lunch shifts or use of tables and surfaces. In addition, work crews are kept separated, among many other new measures.
"We're taking every precaution to help our employees and help local businesses at the same time," said Arreola.
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