In these unprecedented times, there’s still hot pizza, refreshing ice cream, and a strong sense of community.
While the Snoqualmie Valley continues to be hit by various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — schools, playgrounds and city halls are closed, churches have paused worship services, small businesses are hurting, and bars and restaurants have moved to takeout only — there is still hope, including in Carnation.
Just one example of how businesses are surviving this difficult chapter through community support is Blake’s Pizzeria and Ice Cream in Carnation. A fixture in the community since 1987, Blake’s invites people to enjoy “a slice of life.”
Co-owners Emma Redman and Teeanna Bergquist bought the restaurant from the original owner, Greg Dunham, more than five years ago. Both had worked there in high school and beyond.
Redman said one thing that was important to the original owner and remains important to them today is that Blake’s has a sense of being a “touchstone” of the community, a place people grow up with.
She said the walls inside feature photo collages of kids dining there with their sports teams, teens having parties, former employees and families eating there together. Many community members now come back and show their own children their pictures on the wall.
They have been operating on a to-go only basis since the Governor’s office on March 16 ordered the closure of all restaurants and bars, aside from takeout. They also already had been taking measures to promote social distancing and limit contact, such as encouraging people to order over the phone and offering curbside pickup.
Blake’s plans to start using a new online ordering system sometime this week.
Redman said things are going okay, but it’s hard to plan with all the uncertainty.
“The community is amazing, and the support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I think many businesses like us are hanging in there for now
Redman said the goal is to keep the pizzeria open as long as possible. She said, as of March 23, that they don’t know whether or not they will have to shut down, as the situation keeps evolving with new regulations.
They are also in a difficult situation with not being able to work from home. Meanwhile there are more than a dozen employees relying on the income.
They are able to offer pretty much their full menu — pizzas, hot sandwiches, salads, ice cream — as takeout, she said.
Redman said that for the first couple of days once fear started to mount around the virus, they did see a slump in sales. That was especially concerning as the January through March months are usually their slowest.
But then pretty much as soon as people started being asked to work from home, that changed and there has been a pretty steady demand. They almost can’t keep up at times.
“In our community people really rally around small businesses,” she said, noting that many have been encouraged to spend lunch dollars in new ways.
She said the community also is fortunate to be uniquely situated as sort of the “backyard” to major regional tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft. Many neighbors who would normally commute to work in Seattle and eat in the city are now working from home, and many of them have been choosing to spend that money at local restaurants. She pointed out that her town is in the opposite situation of Seattle in this way.
While things are going well so far, they are still in need of support and there are several ways people can help. In addition to ordering food to go, folks can purchase gift certificates for later use. Redman said that if people don’t feel up to coming in to eat, they can still help by liking and sharing their posts on social media.
Meanwhile several community groups are promoting lists of businesses still open and offering services, including Savor Snoqualmie Valley (https://savorsnoqualmievalley.org/), and people have been banding together to promote one another in Facebook groups.
Redman also mentioned that many people might be bored staying at home during this time, and so hopefully many of them will continue order takeout, as they have been seeing so far.
“Hopefully that’s the way businesses will be able to sustain themselves,” she said. “The goal is to be able to stay open and to serve people in a way that’s safe. We don’t want to put people at risk.”
Redman said she is thankful for her community during this pandemic.
“People have been so encouraging and kind. Everyone is being so nice, both business wise and socially, checking in on us,” she said. “We need that human connection right now, so that’s been really wonderful.”
More information about Blake’s Pizzeria can be found online at their website www.blakespizza.com.