Dishing Up Innovation Series– Laura Leite – Belleville Telescope News
Two in a series. The pandemic has been a challenge for Republic county restaurants. Many found innovative ways to serve and support the community they call home. Over the next few weeks, the Telescope will take a closer look at local restaurants and how they have persevered.
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Chris and Adriana Coffman bought Pinky’s Bar and Grill in Courtland and opened November 1, 2019. Just as their business started to build momentum, COVID-19 shut everything down.
One of the things that they did to survive the pandemic and stay relevant to the community was to open a small grocery store in the front of the restaurant. This helped to keep the relationship with the community and allowed the Coffmans to serve the residents in a relevant and needed way.
“Even though we couldn’t serve food in the restaurant, people were still able to come in and grab the essentials,” says Chris. People were able to purchase toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant and fresh fruit, and vegetables without leaving town. “Things that we could still purchase, but they couldn’t,” adds Adriana.
“We also pivoted with our food during this time,” says Chris. “We made family-of-four ‘Take and Bake’ meals that could be purchased and taken home.”
“The ‘Take and Bakes’ were helpful because I think everyone was a little stressed,” says Adriana. “And they did not know where to go and what to do, especially the families that were used to eating out all the time. When they could just pick something up that was ready to bake, it was helpful and made their lives a little less stressful.”
Starting a new life
While the Coffmans are new to Courtland, they’re not new to the restaurant business.
The Coffmans moved to Courtland from Denver after falling in love with the area when they stayed at an Airbnb at Formoso. “We were headed back to Denver from Tennessee and had a couple of extra days, so we decided to stay at the Airbnb and really enjoyed it and it became our threeday weekend get away,” says Chris.
“One day when we were leaving, we said to each other, ‘Why don’t we find something we can do here so we don’t have to leave a place that we enjoy,” he says. “We started asking around what a couple of city kids could do around here that don’t know anything about farming, and someone mentioned that Pinky’s was for sale.”
Adriana’s parents opened a restaurant the year she was born, and my family owned a restaurant but didn’t manage it ourselves. But one year we decided to take it over and I have been in the restaurant business ever since.”
“So, we knew a thing or two about restaurants, and we decided to give it a shot,” says Chris.
“Here we are,” adds Adriana with a smile.
As new business owners, the Coffmans have little data from before the pandemic to compare how COVID affected the business. Their first months were steady, but then they saw a drop in March and April was the worst month. “April was rough,” said Adriana. “The world stopped, and people were afraid.”
Now they say people have decided that they need to go on with their lives and keep doing the things that they enjoy. “You can’t stop living,” says Chris.
“We are happy here and the kids love it,” says Adriana.
Small town life
“It is nice that our children have more freedom here than they would have in Denver,” says Chris. “The kids couldn’t walk to school there, but they can here, they have the autonomy to go to school and come home on their own.”
“Growing up in D.C., I was probably the last generation that could come home when the streetlights came on, now in the city, I couldn’t even fathom letting my kids come home on their own,” he says.
“In Denver, the neighbors would call concerned if the kids were in the front yard on their own, we don’t want to live in a place like that,” he adds. “It’s nice to live somewhere kids can be kids.”
“They are happy here,” says Adriana. “And the schools are better here, it is more one on one.”
Pinky’s is a longtime fixture on Courtland’s Main Street. The Coffmans replaced everything in the kitchen and added a wall to separate the kitchen from the dining area. Fountain soda has been added and the menu has changed. They have added kid games in the back room so that kids can play while the parents have a relaxing dinner.
“Our most popular dishes are chicken parmesan and the burgers,” said Chris. “The peanut butter candied bacon burger, spin art burger and chicken wings are also some of our most talked about,” says Adriana.
“Everything is fresh and not frozen, and we source as much of our food as possible locally,” Chris says. “In season, we purchase from the Courtland Depot Market and hope to work with C & C High Tunnels (at Scandia) and others.”
They own the lot next to the restaurant and kept one of the Courtland Fun Day stages so that when the weather is nice, they can book live music and make outside dining available.
Working around COVID, they try to offer a couple of fun events a month. They had a Super Bowl event and plan something special for Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras.
“We are still having the events for people to have something to look forward to, but they are on a smaller scale for everyone’s safety,” says Chris.