Wilcom’s Inn, a fine dining restaurant in Monrovia, was forced to close late last summer after a tornado damaged the building. Owner Jorge Fuster said the plan all along had been to reopen once repairs were completed.
He didn’t expect, however, to be reopening in the middle of a pandemic.
It became clear to Fuster in March that if Wilcom’s was going to reopen, it was going to have to do so as a carry-out only establishment. But Wilcom’s had never been known for that kind of service. The sit-down restaurant was more known for four-course meals paired with a wine from their 145 selections.
“Well, you’re asking the kitchen to really think completely differently by sending all four of those or three of those in one bag, in different packages,” he said. “You don’t want to send out the dressing on the salad, you want to send it out on the side.”
He scrambled to find take-out containers, which are currently in short supply nationwide. He ended up sourcing from not only his vendors but also Amazon and Walmart in order to make it work. Fuster only wanted top-notch containers so that customers wouldn’t have sauce slide around their cars.
“And then put on top of all of that, disinfecting all the areas, wearing masks, trying to communicate in the kitchen with masks on and do things really well outside of our normal environment,” Fuster said.
Wilcom’s opened back up on Tuesday. Before noon, they had to announce they were closing for the rest of the day as they had received too many orders to complete.
“We had an overwhelming response from the community. They’ve been very, very supportive of us,” Fuster said.
The staff, which is about half of what it was before the tornado, spent three days preparing for the first day. They had less than a day to prepare for Wednesday.
There are other road blocks. Some ingredients are hard to come by, like crab meat.
While Fuster has several different providers, the pandemic has limited the amount of fishing done and he was not able to get the crab meat he wanted. He cut the crab items from the menu rather than sacrifice the quality.
Meat is also in short supply, he said, and more expensive than usual. But he doesn’t want to raise the prices on his menu and “pass on” the extra charge to his customers during the pandemic.
“Not only the restaurants are suffering, but the people themselves are suffering,” Fuster said.
He was humbled to see the outpouring of support from the community, both on re-opening day and leading up to it. The restaurant’s Facebook posts were flooded with words of encouragement and excitement. It can’t replace the in-person interactions that Fuster misses, but he appreciates everyone coming through.
“They’re friends and family,” Fuster said. “They’re not just our patrons.”