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Getting through together

Local restaurant owners give back to community despite monetary losses due to COVID-19

Helping others: Alex Nalbandian, owner of Southampton’s Iron Oven, is utilizing the restaurant’s distributors to obtain coveted items like toilet paper, paper towels and wipes for neighbors. Source: Iron Oven

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise exponentially across the country, regular life as we knew it seems to be turning into a distant memory.

This sentiment is especially true for local restaurant owners, who are greeted by deserted tables rather than the usual hustle and bustle of serving customers. Due to mitigation efforts by Gov. Tom Wolf to help stop the spread of the virus, eateries were forced to either shut down temporarily or quickly adapt to curbside takeout and delivery.

Despite having their own anxieties about what the future holds for themselves and their employees, several area restaurant owners are taking steps to aid community members during this public health emergency.

A prime example is Jason Green, owner of Jay’s Steak & Hoagie Joint, located at 1205 Highland Ave., Langhorne. While many locations are doing anything they can to keep operations running, Green decided closing his business’s doors and paying his employees for two weeks was the smartest move. Two staff members are high-risk (one is 73 years old and another has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and others reside with elderly parents.

“We figured it was for everyone’s best interest to listen to what the government said and sit back and breathe for two weeks,” Green said.

This decision was a monetary loss for Green, but that didn’t stop him from giving back. With the prospect of some food potentially going to waste, Green donated meat and other items to Parkland Community Church, which is collecting food to help individuals who don’t want to leave their homes.

Additionally, Green distributed $1,000 in $5 “Jay Bucks” to people who donated to Levittown’s ERA Food Pantry. These gift cards can be used at the sandwich shop once it reopens.

With the pandemic most likely lasting longer than two weeks, Green has plans to launch a food truck and sell cheesesteaks to truckers at rest stops.

“A few of my employees said they’d join in those efforts if that’s the route I’m going,” Green said. “I gave them two weeks in the hopes that the government would have a system in place for them after that in case it was to get worse. They know that as soon as we get the thumbs up to come back to work, we’ll come back to work.”

As for Alex Nalbandian, owner of Iron Oven, located at 1134 Street Road, Southampton, he’s pulling strings with the restaurant’s distributors to obtain coveted items for neighbors.

“I keep seeing a lot of posts about how a lot of people can’t get stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, wipes. That stuff is hard to come by right now,” he said.

Those in need can let Nalbandian know which items they require, including paper products and groceries, such as eggs and meat. He’ll then place the order and let them know when it’s ready to be picked up.

“Hopefully, as long as people need it, I can get it,” he said.

Currently, Iron Oven is offering curbside takeout and delivery, from noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Sunday.

“We’ve been wrestling with this every hour of every day, whether to stay open or not. I’ve been doing everything I can,” Nalbandian said. “The whole world is in our boat, which I think that’s never happened before. It’s crazy. It really is crazy and something I never thought I’d see in my life. We just have to get through it together. If we all just help each other, we’ll get there.”

Visit facebook.com/JaysJoint/ and facebook.com/TheIronOvenRestaurant/ for more information.

The coronavirus situation continues to evolve on an hourly basis. Some of this information may have changed. Please check with individual businesses for updates.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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