Restaurant Poco opened its doors in the spring of 2019 never anticipating they’d be forced to shut their doors in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-owners and siblings Stephano Cicirello and Susie Ely had to lay off all their employees and figure out how they would survive the unforeseeable future.
“We were scared, and we also wanted to take care of our employees and be responsible about what we needed to do. Unfortunately we did have to let go of everybody but it allowed them to apply for unemployment. We had to close our doors temporarily then figure out a new plan of what to do,” Ely said.
It started with finding a way to deal with all of the food left in the restaurant. They put out the word that they would be selling it for members of the community to buy as groceries. This was so popular the co-owners decided to continue to offer groceries for pick up and delivery.
“We had a way to do it contactless and we still had relationships with our vendors and our farmers. We were like, well if we can continue working with all the same people we were working with and even some new people to keep out business going and to keep relationships and other businesses open, then we should do that,” Ely said.
The biggest challenge facing businesses such as Restaurant Poco now is what reopening means.
“This is a really small space with only 25 seats and so based on what some of the opening requirements are, let’s say for retailers now they are allowed to have 25 percent of their capacity. We can’t survive as a full restaurant at 25 percent capacity,” Ely said.
For the time being Restaurant Poco will continue to offer its contactless grocery store.
“We have to change our business model and pivot to continuing the online grocery because it’s a safe and feasible way for us to keep the business going. Then, once the doors are open, still continue doing the grocery but also those prepared foods,” Ely said.
Restaurant Poco’s grocery service carries lots of things you would find in a typical grocer. Eggs, fresh veggies, pasta, bread and canned foods. Along with that they offer a variety of pre packaged meals such as chicken curry salad or Pierogies. They are open Monday-Friday for pick up between twelve and six pm and deliver every Monday and Friday between three and four pm.
55 Main Street. Burlington, Vt.