CHICAGO (CBS) – Almost everyone has been forced to get creative during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some South Side women entrepreneurs have decided to turn the devastation into dividends by reinventing the ‘bar and restaurant’ into retail.
When Yasmin Curtis’ Bronzeville seafood restaurant closed due to COVID-19, it hurt, but she started looking for ideas on how to serve those loyal customers stuck at home.
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“I was like, ‘How can’ Two Fish ‘be in front of this group of people?”
She, like the thousands of restaurant owners in Chicago, had no real takeout infrastructure. But soon she had an idea for a take home – a quick and easy crab boil.
âSo I developed a prototype,â she says. âAt first I thought I would just sell it outside the restaurant.â
Until she introduced her product to executives at Mariano’s, a grocery chain that had never seen anything so specific about the restaurant. It became an instant hit on the shelves.
âI was like ‘I can’t believe this!’â Curtis said.
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It’s no surprise that a first report this year from the National Restaurant Association shows that those who are stuck at home – about 60% of millennials – still crave those restaurant foods and drinks.
Jaidah Wilson Turnbow, general manager of a South Side bar and lounge, said the time at home gave her the opportunity to reflect, not on food, but on safety. She had different retail dreams and recently got patents for silicone covers to go on glass drinks to prevent the spread of germs.
The director of the Frances Lounge said her husband dying of COVID-19 gave her all the boost she needed to help others.
âOne of my goals is to have this article available nationally,â she said. “People might use it at home at family gatherings because you’re always worried about droplets.”
âWe’re looking for things that interest customers, whether it’s two fish or one product,â said Amanda Puck, Marketing Manager at Mariano.
She said she sees the idea of ââa retail restaurant becoming a sticky idea beyond the pandemic.
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âI think what people also realize is that they can have a great experience at home,â she said.