Rep. Stevens Chats w/Woodpile BBQ Owners About Business Relief Efforts
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 9, 2021)
Clawson, MI – When Tim Idzikowski Woodpile BBQ’s second location in Dec. 2019 he had no idea that a worldwide pandemic would soon clamp down on life and business. Employees were laid off. Revenues plummeted. And the future was uncertain.
However, like other small businesses around the country, Idzikowski was able to find relief through the Payroll Protection Program loan program, which divvied up Federal funds to keep businesses like Woodplie BBQ afloat during the pandemic. Idzikowski received $156,000, which helped him to pay employee wages as well as employee bonuses, while also paying off business debt.
He and members of the Woodpile team met with Congressperson Haley Stevens Wednesday morning at Woodpile’s Downtown Clawson location to talk about the PPP program, and share what their experience has been like navigating this past year.
Woodpile opened their Clawson location in December 2015. Madison Heights opened just before the pandemic hit.
Idzikowski’s son and business partner Zack described the beginning. “It went from a great weekend before, to a weekend when people were startingg to get scared, to the day we shut down,” he said. “Our business, we were crunching numbers to figure out how much money we had to do in sales every day just to break even.”
The cost of meat also became a challenge. “Our briskets and pork butts took the biggest hits, which are our best movers,” Zack explained. “Our briskets went up to over $6 a pound last year, which almost tripled what they were. They were in the low twos for a while, then it went up to over $6 a pound.”
Like restaurants across the state, Woodpile weathered doing carryout only, and the various restrictions on seating. Even now, restaurants can only have 50% of their capacity. Early on Woodpile laid off hourly employees, and as things opened back up they, like many other service orientated businesses, have struggled to find help, though offering bonuses did help with some employee retention.
Tim’s daughter Kelly Idzikowski handles catering and outreach for the business. “We lost three managers to a 9 to 5 job,” she said. “We can’t fault them, a lot of them can work from home at this point. Even when we pay better, they’re not working those nights and weekends.”
Reduced tips due to reduced capacity mean less money for restaurant workers. And while there are safety measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID, it still a job with more risk than working from home or around fewer people.
Stevens appreciated using bonuses strategically. “If we are providing grants or support to businesses, we do want to help them reel in, with dollars, the people because we are capital restrained, human capital,” she said.
Another way government was able to adapt to help restaurants was the addition of outdoor seating options and the ability to serve alcohol outdoors. Woodpile already had outdoor seating, but they were able to make improvements to the space including to the metal roof and heaters. And they were able to get a license that enabled them to serve drinks on the patio area, giving them a previously untapped revenue stream.
And more help is on the way. Rep. Stevens is optimistic that Restaurant Act funding will soon be available for restaurant owners. The $28.6 billion fund is “to provide restaurants with grants equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million per entity, or $5 million per physical location.
Talking with the Idzikowski’s helped the Congressperson “keep my pulse on what’s happening” with the business community. “You celebrated your five years, but we want to get you to ten years,” she said. “We’re proud to see Woodpile has received over $150,000 in Payment Protection Loan dollars, and we’re excited to see their continued success.”
The Small Business Administration is the central resource for PPP Loan information as well as other opportunities for Small Business Owners. Check them out online at https://www.sba.gov/.
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