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How the new Allentown Café is succeeding despite the pandemic

And advice for other business owners
Posted at 10:54 AM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 10:57:13-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In a time where so many business owners are closing their doors, one in Buffalo is just getting started. Jack Reid, owner of the new Allentown Café, is doing whatever he can to make sure his new spot stays afloat and it’s working.

"We’ll just try to do the best we can with what we have and what we’re allowed to do. That’s all I can do," said Reid.

Reid comes from humble beginnings in the restaurant industry. He's spent the last 13 years working under restaurateurs like Jay Manno.

“I started out as a busboy and then shortly after I graduated to server,” said Reid.

And now he’s the owner of Allentown Café, where he serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday.

"It’s just something light and fun, you can enjoy yourself, enjoy a couple of friends and have coffee and eat breakfast and what have you," said Reid.

He opened the doors on October 27, only to shut them three weeks later, when most of Erie County entered the orange zone.

"[It] kind of stinks because people were really just getting a feel of what we’re trying to create here," said Reid.

He quickly pivoted to takeout and delivery and is seeing success. He says the key is promoting his businesses on social media, especially Instagram.

“It was a little bit challenging, but not crazy. Definitely obstacles, but for the most part, things are going well,” said Reid.

He says this transition allowed him to begin other ventures as well, like catering and bringing his food to local hotels where kitchens are closed.

But many others in the restaurant industry are telling a different story.

"The Erie County grant program, for example, had over 90 million requests for $20 million of funding, so we know the problem is acute," said Dottie Gallagher, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

A New York State Restaurant Association survey found nearly two-thirds of restaurants will close without an industry relief package.

Gallagher says other than the federal government stepping in with another stimulus, she's not sure where else small business can turn for help.

"That’s really in the end what businesses need to survive," said Gallagher.

Especially those who missed out on Cares Act Funding.

"Do we need more of that? Should we get more of that? Absolutely. Can we get it in time that these businesses aren’t forced to close? Let’s hope so," said Gallagher.

And while we wait on Washington, Gallagher has two tips for business owners:

  • Try new things, get innovative if you can
  • Talk to your bank about opening a new line of credit, see what options they have for you

She asks WNYers to order more takeout and shop local for the holidays.