I’ve been a little quiet down here. 

Yep, I am still in Belize. 

The airports are still closed. We had expected to open in August. In fact, Danny Mellman was to arrive on August 20, but just 12 days prior, COVID-19 cases popped up on Ambergris Caye and the country locked down. So suitcases packed and ready, we once again, postponed our reunion. The country seems to have stop the spread and hopefully will revisit plans to open. Soon. Danny’s next departure date is scheduled September 3; the planning at least gives us hope.

It was our first outbreak since March. There is a lot of speculation as to how the outbreak started. One story, which most believe to be accurate, is a private flight carrying asymptomatic Americans to look at real estate came in under the radar. We probably could have survived the visit, except that social distancing and mask-wearing became lax, especially at private events. One by one, the dominoes fell. We are back in strict quarantine.

Anyway, enough of all that, the other reason I haven’t posted (I have been writing) is the criticism I received in the Spring. Some folks took offense to online posts I made. I did not see these posts as political, but rather a cry to politicians to help support small business. What I believed to be calls to action drew some pretty harsh personal attacks.

I am fine with criticism, but not when they threaten my business. Honestly, we have enough threats to our business right now without a misconstrued word knotting up someone’s panties.

So feeling stifled and threatened, I silenced myself.

Now, six months into this pandemic, I continue to read restaurant obituaries across the country. And now the wildfires in California. Those fires will be the final nail in many restaurants and small businesses’ coffins. I have been watching America burning for months and feeling so helpless from here.

Most of my angst is from not being able to help my partner, the other half of my heart, run our businesses. I would give anything to be there when he gets home so he has someone to unload his day on.  He keeps telling me to stay put; no sense me leaving investments here and watching our losses mount in two countries. And so he is left running around, wearing himself out instead of settling into what promised to be one of the best years. Ah, 2020, Danny’s 60th year, yep, it was shaping up beautifully. 

As our newer restaurants and acquisitions were beginning to hit projections in February, older ones were increasing and finally gaining back in profitability after recovering from some previous personnel issues. We were negotiating with a new chef-partner and his family to move up and help take the burden off Danny – I headed to Belize to work on a project here that in five years would be our retirement spot.

And y’all know the rest of the story. Ah, we should have all recalled the warning of the Ides of March.

Anyway, we are grateful to be open again. We are thankful for our customers and friends and team who have supported us throughout this crisis. We are greatly appreciative that our new chef-partner still made the move. We are simply grateful for everything. Blue Ridge is in an enviable position of being still economically resilient in its mountain bubble. And Danny and I both believe firmly it’s a great place to raise a family, start a business, and grow a dream.

But we still have to make changes to adapt to the new market. We have put the Cucina Rustica and Blue Smoke BBQ properties on the market to scale back and make our restaurant group stronger. The restrictions placed on restaurants and the shortage of qualified personnel in the industry in our area have left us focused on our staff, our families’ health, and our business’s health. We cannot operate spread so thin anymore, there is just not the joy in it anymore for Danny and really – for me that is the only thing that matters.

But we are not leaving. We always plan to have a continued presence in Blue Ridge. There are other entrepreneurs here now to carry the torch of serving the public great food – which was our mission all along. We only grew as we did to fill vacant demands from the community. Now, those demands are being met by a great group of people, including our team.

I am grateful to the other restaurant folks and friends who keep Danny smiling in my absence, entertaining him for dinner at their homes, and trying to keep him from work too hard. And folks like Grumpy Old Men’s Kristie and Jeff Young, where I am sure he is well-sustained in hot dogs and some delicious beer.

Cheers! (wear your mask and wash your damn hands) – be safe, everyone.

And if you see this guy – tell him I love him.

This made my day, seeing that smile on my Facebook feed. Thanks for taking such good care of him Blue Ridge!