Local businesses in San Marcos get creative in the midst of a pandemic

Emily and Hom Weusi are owners of Weusi Wellness Cafe. (Courtesy Weusi Wellness Cafe)
Emily and Hom Weusi are owners of Weusi Wellness Cafe. (Courtesy Weusi Wellness Cafe)

Emily and Hom Weusi are owners of Weusi Wellness Cafe. (Courtesy Weusi Wellness Cafe)

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From left: Executive Chef Joe Feldmann, owner Carlos Russo and Head Brewer David Jones oversee operations at AquaBrew. (Community Impact Staff)
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Jo's cafe is located at 310 Mary St., San Marcos. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
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Patio Dolcetto is a wine lounge that offers inside and outside seating. (Courtesy Patio Dolcetto)

Emily and Hom Weusi, owners of Weusi Wellness Cafe, are one of the many local business owners in San Marcos that are finding creative ways to stay in business in the midst of the coronavirus.

“Monday [March 16] started off, as usual, our busiest day of the week; I work the whole day so that I can connect and check in with my customers on healthy meal plans. We had a great day of sales on Monday,” Emily said. “Tuesday through Thursday of this week our transactions and sales revenue has been cut in half.”

On March 17, elected officials in San Marcos signed a mandate that called for the closure of bars and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak but has caused small businesses to suffer.

Some creative ways Emily Weusi is implementing to keep business flowing include installing a drive-thru window and encouraging customers to FaceTime once outside the cafe to maintain a face-to-face interaction.

“It is overwhelming to think about cutting staff when for the last three months I have been focused solely on hiring and training my staff so that we could adapt to the large amount of growth,” Emily Weusi said.

As it stands, Emily Weusi has cut her staff of 13 to two, leaving only a manager and herself working.

The drastic but necessary measures local governments have taken have left local bar and restaurant owners scrambling to keep their doors open, with soaring numbers of unemployment as business owners make layoffs.

Another way Weusi Wellness Cafe is adapting to the city’s restrictions is by offering a live cooking show and meal prep classes online as well as free local delivery through Favor and Uber.

The coffee shop is also offering gift cards that can be used for an additional 25% off in store and online.

Hom Weusi owns Str8 Training San Marcos, a gym in the area that has implemented live virtual classes to adjust to the city’s mandate.

Clients have already begun to cancel memberships, according to Emily Weusi, and the gym's focus has shifted to virtual training to continue to serve and maintain relationship with clients.

Hom Weusi has been a trainer in the community for almost 10 years and continues to do so in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak through virtual training both individual and in groups.

“We both started from nothing. We are living proof that you can build a business with no money, constant learning and a lot of hard work,” Emily Weusi said. “I am optimistic that we will rebuild and see it through.”

Jo’s Cafe, a staple study joint for many college students at Texas State Univeristy, is another local business that is suffering.

As the pandemic creeps into Hays County, Elizabeth Rios, owner of Jo’s Cafe, has had to adjust the way she does business and cut some of her staff.

“Some of my employees have been crying since yesterday; I’m trying to be supportive,” Rios said. “I’m a small business, and all my kids are part-time; I had to let half of my staff go.”

Though times are challenging, Rios said she remains positive and is keeping her doors open until she can, but she said it will be difficult to keep any of her staff if the mandates last longer than April 1.

“I’m trying to stay positive; I’m telling my employees to stay positive ... keep ourselves at a distance, keep ourselves clean and take care of our customers that are continuing to come and support us,” Rios said.

Jo’s Cafe is now available through to-go orders and curbside. The coffee shop is also offering coffee beans by the pound, gallons of iced brew coffee and gift cards.

“Call in your orders,” Rios said. “I will keep you guys caffeinated. ... We will get through this together.”

Mana’s Restuarant, a family-owned and -operated establishment, has served Mexican food in San Marcos since 1976 and is also impacted by the city’s mandate.

A co-owner of Mana’s, Richard Juarez, said his restaurant is suffering as the majority of his business comes from dine-in customers.

“Well to tell you the truth this week has really been slow. We are already dealing with construction ... [and] now this,” Juarez said.

Juarez said he is going to focus more on to-go orders and lower the prices on some of the specials to boost business. He also mentioned that no layoffs had been made, as it is a family-operated restaurant.

“I do believe this is going to have an economic impact on us. Look at today: Only three tables since the mayor’s order to limit gatherings, and we still have two weeks to go,” Juarez said.

“We are just going to have to ride the storm out and see what turns out.”

AquaBrew, a local brewery and restaurant, has closed until the mandate is lifted, according to owner Carlos Russo.

“We’ve laid off everyone except our brewer and hopefully we get to bring them back. We offered all of our staff care packages, food,” Russo said. “We’re trying to help as much as we can, given that the industry itself has been hit pretty hard.”

Russo said he could have kept his kitchen open, but to him, the safety of his employees came first.

AquaBrew is available through to-go orders only for beer; it will be open every day from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Though restaurants have been impacted by the mandate, they are are sometimes still able to come up with creative ways to do business. That has not been the case for local bar owners who have been ordered to close due to the pandemic.

Patio Dolcetto, a wine lounge in San Marcos, is one of the local businesses that will remain closed until the mandate is lifted.

Jean Paul, owner of Patio Dolcetto, said he agrees with the city’s decision to keep the community safe but will face challenges to keep staff employed if the mandate lasts longer than two weeks.

“Our staff’s income is a tip-based, so this has a tremendous impact on them. So, we will utilize these two weeks of downtime to employ our staff to do any upgrades to the property and business that are otherwise a challenge while operating seven days a week,” Paul said.

Though Patio Dolcetto is closed, gift cards at 20% off can be purchased online and can be used once the wine lounge is allowed to reopen.



(Graphic illustration courtesy Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
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