The month of March has been a series of tough decisions for Martinelli’s Little Italy in downtown Salina.
Owner, Tony Dong, says that due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak and guidance from government officials has caused him to have to change the way that his business operates. That means changing from one of the premiere downtown restaurant spots and the ultimate “night on the town” location for the past 19 years, to something different.
With in the last week, Martinelli’s made the difficult choice to close down its dining room. The restaurant tried seat guests at least six feet apart to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but after feedback from social media, Dong decided that safety-first is best and went to a carry-out or delivery only option for the time being.
Even with those options, though, this meant significant revenue loss for the restaurant.
Not only is Martinelli’s having to figure out the best way to recoup losses due to closing its dining room, the Italian restaurant is having to do so with a much shorter roster.
In the month of February, Dong had a payroll of 61 employees. Most were part-time. When Martinelli’s had no choice but to close down its dining room this past month, Dong had to make some tough decisions.
This is not the first time that Dong and Martinelli’s have been tested, though. Just before this spring’s pandemic, the restaurant had a different sort of a challenge: construction.
The restaurant fell right in the middle of the public/private partnership called the “Downtown Streetscape,” a $160 million construction project that completely shut off parts of downtown Salina to traffic in intervals for nearly two full years. Much of the process meant that the road, parking spots and even the sidewalks in front of the restaurant were torn out and rebuilt. Something that took many months to do.
The project finally completed in November 2019, however, Dong says that while it was inconvenient, nothing matches the struggle that is the Coronavirus for downtown businesses.
Still, even with the challenges, Dong has a vision for one of Salina’s most popular and well known restaurants. Much like many restaurants in not just Salina or Kansas, but around the country, Dong says that as of now, the only way to order Martinelli’s is through take-out, curb-side delivery, delivery and pick-up.
This means that Martinelli’s is adding some items to the menu that traditionally haven’t been there in the past that be might better suite delivery and take out orders including a take-and-bake pizza which is convenient for patrons.
Dong and Martinelli’s are confident that they will continue to operate through the virus pandemic. He says that if community members would like to wait until things are safe again to eat out and enjoy the town, that the purchase of a gift certificate would also help not just Dong’s business, but many others around the community. With Martinelli’s, you’re able to do so online, through their Facebook page.
The gift certificates go directly in to many businesses’ sales and helps them pay bills during the slow period. Dong made sure to thank the Salina area for their continued support, but still encourages residents to continue to shop local the best they can during the pandemic.
**If you know of a small, local business that has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and has figured out a new way to operate, we’d like to feature them on KSAL’s weekly “Small Business Spotlight.” Contact us with business names at [email protected]**