CYNTHIANA, Ky. (LEX 18) — Fifteen months ago, the city of Cynthiana was under the microscope in Kentucky. The community was the first to have a positive COVID-19 case.
Since March 6, 2020, the ambitious business owners who filled up downtown storefronts have faced unique challenges we will hopefully never see again.
As the restrictions expire, LEX 18 returned to Cynthiana to check on two restaurants we followed throughout the pandemic and found that while we may be on the other side, challenges do remain.
Biancke's Restaurant first opened in 1894. The owners have changed, but the establishment has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and now, two pandemics.
"There's a lot more foot traffic in here now. It's nice to see the faces that we've missed this whole year," said Jon Gruchow, the owner of Biancke's Restuarant.
Old and new businesses have faced the same challenges since March 2020
"We have had every transformation possible it seems like. Every week we would just walk in and readjust, and approach the day the best we could," said Karey Riddell, owner of The Burley Market & Cafe.
The Burley Market & Cafe opened in 2019. During a couple different stretches of the pandemic, Riddell shut down her business to figure out the next steps.
"We have a very small space so it's been challenging. The worst of it, at 33% (capacity), we had three tables in here," said Riddell.
Curbside and outdoor space helped Riddell's cafe survive the pandemic. Now, the interior is changing once again as the restrictions come to an end.
"So we are very much looking forward to getting a few more tables in here and still remaining safe and very conscious of everything, and keeping our outdoor space open and hoping that people take advantage of that," said Riddell.
Cynthiana is open for business and the customers are coming, but new challenges are emerging. The biggest is meeting the increase of demand with a lower number of staff members. That's no different than other places across the country.
Most businesses, including Biancke's and The Burley Market & Cafe, are still looking for new employees.
"It has been a huge struggle and I can say without a doubt, 100%, I would be closed if it were not for my high school employees," said Riddell.
"I think over time, that'll work itself out a little bit but that is our number one challenge," said Gruchow.
Despite the worker shortage, both Riddell and Gruchow are excited to welcome this new normal, one where most of their staff member is vaccinated, and they plan to maintain a safe environment while welcoming in the people that kept them open.
"I know we were the first case of COVID in the state of Kentucky, but this community has really stuck together and were really shown a lot of support. And if it wasn't for them, we would not be where we are right now," said Gruchow.