“We rough it out and see what happens”: How a pizzeria owner is reckoning with a personal health crisis while trying to keep his business open
We shut down the dining room at Frank’s Pizza House last Thursday night—days before we had to. My kids were hanging out here, since they’re home from school, and I wanted to be safe. Over the weekend, we had about a 50 per cent drop in traffic, and today—I’ve been here since the morning—we’ve only had one order.
My staff is self-isolating, since most of them have kids, and I’m here working with my dad. I haven’t gone public about this before, and most of my customers don’t know, but I’m losing my vision. This week, I’ve just had to come to terms with that. I’ve had advanced glaucoma my whole life, and in the past year it’s really taken a toll on me. I have no vision in my right eye and no peripheral in my left. Starting about a year ago, I started working less, and my wife took over the business, but now she’s home with the kids.
I haven’t even really been outside in a couple of days, because when I walk into a store, I have to touch ledges, maybe hold onto somebody’s shoulder. I can’t even get on a streetcar, I think I’d have an anxiety attack. I don’t use my cane out in public, because I’m embarrassed. People might look at me and say, this guy’s running a restaurant? He should stay home. But I have six kids. I can’t stay home.
Since this all began, I’ve stopped paying for ads, because I figure, why waste money? I’m also trying to figure out what to order for supplies. Do I buy fresh produce or just non-perishables like pepperoni and canned olives? Is it worth spending money on peppers and mushrooms if it’s just going to go bad? Are they going to shut me down? If this continues at this rate, we’re going to have no income. I can hold on for maybe 30 days. It’s a tough pill to swallow. We’ve been in business since ’97, and in all that time, we’ve never missed a bill payment. I’ve extended my hours—I’m basically here from lunch to 11 p.m. most days, and will stay beyond that if needed.
I just want people to help each other out in the community right now. Buy a pizza for someone who can’t make food at home. If someone doesn’t have enough food, I’ll give them the pizza for free. It’s not about the money right now, since we’re all in the same boat. We rough it out and see what happens. My staff already knows they eat here for free as long as this lasts.
I think we’re going to get through this, but it might just be the beginning. And if someone out there needs help, my doors are open.
—As told to Liza Agrba