I’ve done a Q&A with Brian (owner of ETTO Pastificio and Giornata Wines) before when times were much different. As we have all been grappling with this new world of coronavirus/ COVID-19 which includes empty grocery store shelves, shelter in place orders, and business closures…I wanted to get some perspective from folks in our community. Thanks to Brian for getting his answers back so quickly.
I will say this, if you have not been financially hurt by this current situation, PLEASE, find whatever local, small businesses you can that are open and buy from them. Buy their food, their beer, their wine, and anything else they are selling. Also, if you know people that need help getting supplies or food…do the human thing and help. We are better together.
Matt: So, Brian, here we are living in some crazy times with with coronavirus/ COVID-19 thing. How are you hanging in there personally?
Brian: This situation has affected me pretty profoundly. I was in line to get on a flight to Milan less than a month ago and there was a mechanical problem. The more I started looking at the news and talking to some friends over there the more nervous I got. There were only a few hundred cases and and a handful of deaths at the time, but I could tell something serious was happening and I worried more about having trouble returning. I’m glad I didn’t get on the plane, but I had no idea what would happen in such a short amount of time. The situation in Italy has been tragic and still is unfolding. I really hope we aren’t on the same path, but I fear we don’t have a cohesive national plan in place and that is concerning.
What’s happened here economically has already been beyond belief so I understand the frustration and loss of jobs and business. I don’t think anyone really knows how bad this virus could or will actually be from a public health standpoint so it kind of a huge damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Several mornings in a row I woke up thinking all this was just a bad dream. I’d turn on the radio and of course hear about the Covid first thing and realize it’s real. I guess I’m not alone thinking this though. I’m sure we will all need therapy after this.
Matt: How have your businesses (ETTO and Giornata Wines) been hit from these recent issues?
Brian: I’m in an interesting position owning two separate businesses. Etto has received a ton of local support from our loyal and local customers and most of our friends. We don’t have any tourists so our sales are skewed more toward food staples like pasta, meatballs, ravioli and lots of flour. A big component of our business was making pasta for restaurants and caterers and that business is gone for now. It breaks my heart to think about my friends in the restaurant trade right now.
Our wine business has taken a huge hit as our sales rely on visitors and we don’t have any and sales to restaurants. The wine business is hard enough so it’s going to take a long time to recover from this. I’ve already been hearing about lots of wineries skipping crush this year. This event will have a profound impact on the Paso wine world. Not as bad as restaurants, but maybe close.
Matt: What are you doing to try and mitigate the impact?
Brian: We are pretty good at pivoting and we are making more stuff that will appeal to families that want easy stuff as they shelter in home. Pasta is one of the easiest and nutritious meals you can make. We are focused on pushing some products that friends of ours who have been laid off and struggling now make. We are selling tons of our sauces made by your friend Loshel. We are doing a couple collaborations with Ricky from Six Test Kitchen. We reached out to some of our friends in the farming community and Windrose Farm will be selling produce and seedlings on Saturday.
Matt: Are you providing any deals, specials, or other services during this time?
Brian: We operate on what I believe is a fair margin and rather than offer discounts at this time I’d rather use the money to support some of our restaurant partners who are struggling and by giving pasta to shelters and stuff like that. We always have industry and locals discounts so I guess that’s still in place. My top priority right now is to stay open through this and keep my employees safe, healthy and employed and our customers safe and comfortable while they shop at Etto.
Matt: Do you have a message to your regular customers or to customers in general?
Brian: The support we get from our customers is immensely rewarding. I want you to understand that by supporting Etto you are supporting your local food ecosystem. I’ve seen and heard about grocery stores here that are sold out of pasta and can’t get it from there suppliers. Some Amazon orders are taking weeks to get delivered. We are open seven days and will be making pasta and other items the whole time. Also, by supporting our local vendors at Etto you are likely helping a family that is struggling right now. This unbelievable situation is tough for everyone, but hopefully a nice meal with a bottle of local wine will provide some comfort and help keep our community strong so we can recover as quickly as possible.
I also have a bunch of customers who are ordering our pasta from their favorite restaurants. I think that’s a beautiful thing right now. There is a lot of generosity right here and now it’s really needed.
Matt: Any advice to other small business owners?
Brian: Stay strong and try to be creative. We’ve had customers come in just because they want us to survive this and make it through. I feel like we can’t let them down. We need to be tough and creative right now and realize that this is just a moment in time that will pass. The history of humankind has survived much greater disasters than this and I believe we will rise from this and be stronger than ever. Owning a business is never easy and this is the toughest test I’ve ever faced, but we can make it through this together.