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The first anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns that rattled the Tri-Cities as well as the world coincide with the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business’ monthly focus on food, wine and the hospitality industry.

We confess we were apprehensive as we prepared for this edition, fearing a paper full of doom and gloom as we looked at some of the pandemic’s hardest hit sectors.

We’re a business publication with a love for entrepreneurs and the big bets they place on themselves and their dreams.

It gives us no pleasure to see – and report about – our neighbors struggling with forces beyond their control or clinging to Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants to stay afloat when they should be earning revenue from happy customers.

But lo and behold, entrepreneurs don’t give up on their dreams so easily. “Pivot” is an overused term, but it describes the innovations we report on in this edition of the Journal.

We’re proud of the stories we tell this month, and we hope you agree they are compelling evidence that the Tri-Cities will not be daunted by this deadly virus.

Local Pumpkin, a family-owned grocery delivery business with roots in consumer-supported agriculture, saw signups double almost overnight as pandemic-related shutdowns led to fears of food shortages.

Owners Cathy and John Franklin had to set up a waiting list while they ramped up the infrastructure to serve 1,200 Tri-City families. Local Pumpkin dishes up locally-raised produce, dairy, meat, dry goods and more, all from a barn in the family’s back garden.

And Stacy McCorkle, owner of Gene’s Custom Slaughter in West Richland, was already dealing with soaring demand from small farmers and growers to slaughter and process beef, pigs and other animals before the pandemic. Customers had to wait months or even a year to get on his calendar.

Thanks to a state grant funded from the coronavirus relief bill, he bought and equipped two trucks and is training his son to join the family business.

If you think meat comes from a package in a grocery store, think again after you learn more about McCorkle and what it takes to transform a 1,200-pound Angus into 700-800 pounds of hanging beef.

Red Door Party Rentals owners Tammy and P.J. Stoflet were in shock as brides, caterers and event planners deluged them with calls to cancel in the early days of the pandemic.

Instead of hiring for the season, they laid off employees, including long-term ones. Tammy cried for days. But then something happened: Businesses wanted to rent tents to accommodate outdoor dining, temperature screening and to provide more room during the lockdown.

Keith Moon, owner Tumbleweeds Mexican Flair in Restaurant, had a similar story. The shutdown closed the dining room and curbed business, including from the high schoolers who normally stopped by for an lunchtime burrito.

He had a brainstorm when he got an air fryer as a gift: Sell trays of burritos for customers to air fry at home. It was a hit.

Moon said he’s learned not to let fear drive decisions, a mistake he made early in the pandemic.

Pasco’s Grocery Outlet had been open a little over a year when the pandemic struck. Owners Janice and Charles Grimm embraced Covid-19 procedures and kept going, though their children could no longer help out in the family business.

Customers responded: The Pasco Grocery Outlet led the Northwest for same store sales growth in 2020, according to its California-based parent.

And John Bookwalter, president of Bookwalter Wines, has plenty to keep him busy at his Richland winery and restaurant, where he is building a major addition. Undaunted, he bought a used food truck from an employee and launches it April 1 in Kennewick – in the parking lot of an office furniture store being converted into a food pod.

It’s been a long year, full of heartbreak and ingenuity and everything in between.

The entrepreneurs featured in this month’s edition have faced the uncertainty with tenacity and grace – and some fear, too.

Here’s hoping as we navigate through Phase 3 of Washington’s Roadmap to Recovery, which offers greater latitude to dine in restaurants, attend movies and gather with friends, that we continue to support the local businesses working hard to do what they do best: Serve our community the best way they know how.

They’re an inspiration to all of us.

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