SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — One of the longest standing restaurants in the capital city’s downtown plans to shut down permanently at the close of business on Friday, citing economic pressures from the Coronavirus epidemic that kept customers away from their dining room.
Daniel Richardson, the manager at The Feed Store, said the soup and sandwich shop had just recently reopened its dining room for customers after months under a mandatory shut down order.
“We were hoping for more, but there was no one downtown unfortunately,” he said, “and the takeout [was] not as good as we were hoping.”
Founded in 1977, the mom-and-pop shop fed everyone from tourists to presidents.
Ross Richardson, the restaurant owner, remembered fondly when President Barack Obama dropped in unannounced during his 2016 visit to the state legislature, a memory that he said “really stands out.”
“We had no idea was coming until the Secret Service folks showed up half an hour ahead of time,” Richardson said. “So that was a great shot in the arm. People were real excited about that.”
The restaurant industry as a whole has struggled to find a consistent foothold in downtown Springfield over the years as the city has endured population losses.
“I’m amazed we survived as long as we did,” he said.
Richardson opened the business with his wife, and said now they are now ready for retirement after a stressful, uncertain bout with an epidemic that rocked the entire industry. He also encountered a number of unsuccessful, frustrating attempts at filing for federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, a process which he called “not particularly helpful.”
Loans available through the Paycheck Protection Program could be forgiven if companies kept their doors open and their staff on the payroll, but Richardson said the relief came too late after the state’s shutdown orders had already prompted him to lay his staff off.
“I told staff to go immediately and apply for unemployment,” he said.
Weeks later, after Congress provided the federal loan program, Richardson said, “I just couldn’t get any reasonable explanation of how the program was gonna work.”
After an initial attempt to apply for a loan, he said the bank turned him away because they were prioritizing sole proprietors over jointly owned businesses. “Five days later,” he said, “I’m watching the news and see the PPP money was all gone.”
Congress eventually acted to expand the loan program for a second wave of applicants, but by then, Richardson had resigned himself to the inevitability of the moment.
“It doesn’t do you any good to be able to employ everybody at their at their full wages if there’s no business, there’s no customers, there’s nothing to do,” he said.
The uncertainty of the virus and how long it might linger before the arrival of a vaccine was another factor that weighed on Richardson’s mind.
“If I thought it would be over in a month or two, we’d probably stay open,” he said, “but there’s a limit to how long you can keep propping something up.”
His son, who manages the business and staff, said, “I think it was a COVID-19 crisis that just kind of killed the restaurant industry.”
The restaurant employs a total of 13 workers, including the two owners.