SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- On California’s reopening day, the air just outside of Nutmeg Bakery and Café in Scripps Ranch is filled with the aroma and the anticipation of finally opening fully to diners for the first time in 15 months.
The cafe only opened a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit and had to transform quickly to survive. Now, they've transformed again and are ready.
Owner Drew Hoffos said, “We weren't sure we'd make it through and to finally be on the cusp of it is really, really exciting.”
All the more so because, as Hoffos remembers, at the start of the pandemic things were rough.
“Our numbers went from a couple hundred orders a day down to just over a dozen or something like that,” he told ABC 10News.
So, Hoffos and his business had to pivot quickly from cafe to grocery store.
“We had the vacuum sealer going, we were sealing up all the meats we had left over and all of the cheeses and we were selling flour,” said Hoffos.
But selling the ingredients they normally used to cook and make pastries wasn't enough to break even. It was just a way to roll with things and keep as many workers as they could.
Hoffos said they had a few things going for them, telling ABC 10News, “I think being owner operators helps because we were able to not take salaries for a year and still do work so that helps, and I think the community really rallied behind us.”
They did that by ordering custom cakes, buying gift cards and their groceries at the bakery. Hoffos said he learned a big lesson in this past year. “That if you've got the right people and everybody's working toward the same goal that you can get through just about anything.”
As partial reopening began, customers returned, to sit inside and outside under expanded tent-seating.
“I think there's a lot of pent-up demand. There are people that are just really anxious to get out and be among other people again,” said Hoffos, who also understands how much he owes those people and this community.
“Thank you doesn't quite seem like enough; I mean, we're so grateful we're one of the few that was able to make it through this,” Hoffos said.
Hoffos said to get ready they had to pull things out of storage and sanitize everything. For now, he said staff will continue to wear masks.
As for the tented seating outside, Hoffos said they'll keep that up as long as they're allowed to because not only does it increase seating capacity, but some people may feel more comfortable eating out there.