Over the last 29 years, Joe Gallant has served thousands of customers at his bar and restaurant in Fort Worth called the Apple Cafe and his other eatery, NYPD Deli.
The New York native has spent more than three decades in the Lone Star State and has cultivated many relationships over the years with the community.
While Gallant has always known it, 2020 really highlighted how grateful he is to the loyal customers who continue to do business with him.
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"The community has made us a successful business, whether the bottom line is there or not is not important, it's knowing that they're (the community) there in case we need them," said Gallant.
The pandemic threw a wrench into his finances this year after business slowed in the beginning half of the year thanks to the coronavirus and shutdowns.
It all started in March, which was supposed to be one of their busiest months. He said they had to cancel their 29th-year celebration and St. Patrick's Day.
"We lost just that month alone, about $85,000, which was a tremendous amount," he said.
Like many others in the industry, they had to adjust to the world of take out, but the volume is not the same as having people come in to eat.
Pre-pandemic, during their lunchtime buffet, the inside of the Apple Cafe would be busy, but it's tables are now bare since they've lost a lot of foot traffic.
"People work from home, we don't have as many people in the area as we've had in the past, so not only is it the lunch buffet not being here, but it's also that nobody is at the office, they're all staying home and working out of the houses, the lunch business throughout the whole Metroplex and throughout the whole country is not what it used to be and never will be," said Gallant.
He said loyal customers continue to support him and have even donated about $6,000 to help him provide free meals to frontline workers and teachers.
It all comes full circle because it's also helped him keep food on the table for his staff.
"Not only is that helping me pay their salaries and keep them employed, the community and how active they are in taking care of them on a tip basis, has been overwhelming," said Gallant.
His employees, which is currently about 17 people, have made more than 1,800 meals for doctors, nurses and teachers across DFW.
"It's getting tougher in the hospitals right now, and they're going to need more help," said Gallant about feeding frontline workers.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:
The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
A $5 donation buys a healthcare worker baked ziti and a Caesar salad.
"It's amazing seeing what they do and how they put themselves in jeopardy for our benefit," said Gallant. "We're blessed to have frontline workers in our lives."
Providing free meals has cost more than the $6,000 that's been donated and Gallant has helped pick up the tab. Something he doesn't mind doing because he appreciates the battle medical professionals continue to face with COVID-19. He's also grateful for all those who help others with non-coronavirus illnesses since doctors and nurses helped save his business partner's life.
While 2020 has served everyone a side of the unexpected, Gallant believes there are more positives than negatives that have surfaced from the pandemic, and is reassured of that by the community that continues to support him.
"There is good and bad, but don't live on the bad," said Gallant who believes while the pandemic has brought challenges, it's brought families closer together and more focus on health.
Gallant said one of the positives has been looking at his business model and is looking into providing more takeout and catering.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.