Doors opening for some, closing for many: How the pandemic affected 2 local restaurants

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Stay-at-home orders meant staying out of restaurants for much of the pandemic, leading to a huge financial hit for many. As the third year of the pandemic approaches, two local restaurant owners shared how their businesses are doing.

“I knew if I would’ve kept going the way I was going, I wasn’t going to survive it. So I had to stop,” said Gregory Bone, owner of Bones at Peoria’s Keller Station.

The ice cream and burger joint closed its doors in October 2021, after opening mid-summer 2020.

Bone said operating at limited capacity became too much of a financial hit to continue.

“Actually I closed because I saved more money. I lost less money being closed than being open for this winter,” he said.

But as many businesses closed permanently, others opened up.

The Fry Spot opened in May 2021. Owner Jeremy Sargent said he opened a location of the loaded fry restaurant in Bakersfield, California. He said when the pandemic hit, he moved back to his Central Illinois hometown and eventually opened a new location in Peoria.

He said business was smooth sailing from the start, but now he is starting to feel the heat.

“I can’t say COVID played a major role in crippling our success, so to speak,” Sargent said. “But now that it’s slowed down, now with this new variant that has come, now we’re starting to feel it.”

He said a majority of orders are takeout, which he said was a factor in the initial success of The Fry Stop.

“I think since our business is focused around to-go, it kind of kept our numbers in the building down to a minimum,” he said. “It kind of helped us through it.”

But Sargent said numbers slowed down significantly, starting in October, and they’re continuing to slow down. He said another shutdown would most likely kill his business.

“I feel like a lot of people are staying indoors or a lot of people are getting sick,” he said.

Throughout the pandemic, however, Sargent said he noticed small businesses coming together, supporting one another during a time when it is not easy to own a small business. He also said he has faith in the support of his customers.

Meanwhile, Gregory Bone won’t let closing down stop him from being a business owner.

“This is my dream, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do in my entire life,” he said. “Until I’m done, and literally I’m beaten to the ground, I’m going to keep going.”

He said closing down was a difficult choice to make, and very hard for him and his family.

“It’s terrible,” he said. “I mean, you know, your family works for you, you got all these kids working for you, and you just want to employ them.”

Bone has plans to reopen his restaurant in a new location. The goal is to reopen next spring in Peoria, but many things remain uncertain for the ice cream shop as of now.

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