CYNTHIANA, Ky. (LEX 18) — The corner of Pike and Walnut in Cynthiana's downtown will look a little emptier this Saturday when the owners of the Burley Market & Café flip the open sign for the final time.
COVID-19 is forcing them to close the restaurant after first opening in May 2019.
"I'm out of steam, and I can't continue this journey with the little amount of energy I have left in me," said owner Karey Riddell.
She says the café has rolled out nearly 45,000 of their famous cinnamon rolls since then, alongside coffee, sandwiches, and salads. Even when the pandemic forced them to adjust nine months in, Riddell felt the pressure to persevere.
"Offering curbside, online ordering, doing all of these things," she said. "It took so many people to operate because we were picking up volume, and people were loving what we were doing. But every week, it seemed we had to change something."
Her business model changed seemingly overnight. But Riddell says the market only qualified for the first round of PPP loans, and by the time she received the money, she was already two months behind. This summer, inflation meant her budget got tighter while she tried to hire employees during a labor shortage.
"As of this week, I lose 14 people to go back to school because I am mostly employing teenagers to help me," Riddell said. "So I have four employees left during the day, and I can't operate this with four employees."
Opening the market was her dream come true, but Riddell says it's time for a new one. She's ready to spend more time with her family as she figures out what's next, and she's also eager for a mental reprieve from the stresses of running a small business.
"Every journey has a beginning and an end, and this is my end for this place," she said.
The Burley Market & Café is now up for sale, Riddell says. She's eager to see what's next for the special space she helped design.
As for the cinnamon rolls? Their future, too, is undecided. After all, they're a family recipe.
But Riddell does know one thing for sure.
"I feel better walking away from this knowing I'm doing it for the right reasons," she said. "I'm doing it on my own terms."
LEX 18 reached out to the Kentucky Restaurant Association to see how many restaurants have shut down because of the pandemic. While she can't confirm the exact number, president Stacy Roof estimates it's close to several hundred. Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association found 90,000 restaurants nationwide, or approximately 14% of all eateries, closed permanently due to the effects of the pandemic.