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Jonesing for Jonesy’s take out

Posted: May 8, 2020

Jonesing for Jonesy’s take out

 The Jonesy’s crew, left to right, Danielle, Kathy, Kevin and Alex Jones,
Tony Brambilla, Amanda Lamontagne, Gabe Semeniuk, Dan Gray,
Cam Mazur, Kris Hrom and Josh Semeniuk.

Plenty of thoughts run through Kevin Jones’ mind when he thinks about what’s occurred since March 18, the day his East St. Paul restaurant Jonesy’s closed its doors in the wake of COVID-19 and then just over a week later, re-opened to become a take-out joint.

He’s thankful to loyal customers, and to his staff, both of whom have redefined dining and showed incredible spirit during what can be understated as a pretty dim time.

"We’ve been completely surprised by the support,” Jones said.

"And without staff, there’s no way we’re doing this, without what they’re able to pull off, we’d be closed.”

It was the day after St. Pat- rick’s Day when Jones, who owns the restaurant with his wife Kathy and business partner Tony Brambilla, shuttered their popular Birds Hill restaurant when the province limited the number of people that could gather anywhere to less than 10.

"We assumed that was it and we’d just close until things lifted,” he said.

But then he got a call from Lenny Baranyk, president of Pratts Wholesale and an East St. Paul resident, who told him a lot of his restaurant customers were keeping the kitchen open and becoming take-out only.

"Lenny called me just to let me know that a lot of the customers that they have that went to pick up only were surprised by the volume that they were doing,” Jones said.

"Instantly I thought we should give it a shot. We already had a lot of inventory on hand still, a lot of stuff in freezers, so it wasn’t hard to flip the switch and reopen. We turned around and that next day opened up with five employees.”

The re-opening of Jonesy’s, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, came on March 27th, and they haven’t looked back since.

Jones said they’ve been "totally surprised” at how well they’re doing.

"We’re doing about a third of the business, and it’s definitely a swing in the wrong direction but that first week we did our projections and thought, ok, this might be sustainable and then the second week came and we’re like, ok, we might actually have to call another staff member back,” he laughed.

They did call another staff member in because the kitchen couldn’t keep up with how fast the orders were coming in.

And by now, the orders might be coming in even faster.

At the time of this interview Jones was in the process of adding additional phone lines. They only had one – which was all they needed in the old world – but in this new version of reality, their single line meant one person could call in an order and a second could be on hold. Anyone else got a busy signal.

He said they were getting emails from people who were Jonesing for Jonesy’s and they were getting nothing but a busy signal.

With the additional lines, Jones said they’ll implement a different system to make things more manageable.

He said take out only presents its challenges and it’s a faster pace. When folks are coming in for a meal, they sit down, check out the menu, place their order, have a drink and enjoy the ambiance, eat their meal, relax and then head out.

It’s different with take out.

"It’s a tsunami that you can’t stop,” he laughed.

"We’re figuring it out, but it’s like learning the wheel all over again doing strictly takeout. We were good at what we did, and after 20 years you’d think we’d be able to do take out easily, but nope, not easy at all.”

While they’re all learning how to become masters of take out, Jones said he’s learned plenty about who his customers are. He knew he had local support, he just didn’t know how much.

He said he assumed the majority of his clientele came from Winnipeg, but he no longer thinks that.

"When that first week came and I saw how many orders came in right off the hop, and really it was only a handful of people that knew we were open and told their friends, I think I’ve been wrong all this time,” he said.

"The biggest piece is not from the city, probably the biggest piece is local and then all the people that we do draw from the city and wherever else.

"East St. Paul, they like their local restaurant, there’s no doubt about it.” 

Thinking outside the box key to success in tough times

 Lenny Baranyk, president of Pratts Wholesale, says the fact his family business has two sides to it is huge in today’s COVID-19 world.

"We have the retail side that supplies grocery stores and convenience stores and that’s busy but the food services side, not so much, that took a big hit,” Baranyk said.

"Unfortunately we had to do layoffs ourselves to deal with the times and try and plan because we don’t know how long this is going to be… Hopefully we can ride this wave for a while and be able to survive, it’s been a tough year for everybody.”

Baranyk, an East St. Paul resident, called his client and owner of Jonsey’s Restaurant and Bar, Kevin Jones, in mid March to let him know other restaurants were having success doing just take out in the aftermath of government shutdowns due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

He’s glad he did, and he’s glad Jonesy’s, and anyone else who’s surviving, is making a go of it.

"For entrepreneurs, people who are thinking outside the box, it’s amazing. The last thing people want to do is shut their doors, you try to keep your people employed,” he said.

"And kitchens, you don’t want to shut them down because they’re expensive to start up again. I would encourage everyone to support your local businesses.”

Baranyk is thankful for all the support his business has received too, and he wanted to say thanks to all the front line workers who are keeping the rest of us safe.

"In the restaurant business, people are coming to get food, for doctors and nurses, those people are coming to get fixed,” he said.

"It’s two different scenarios, we’re trying to hide from (COVID-19) and front liners, they’re getting all of it.”


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