Matt Weafer’s dream of owning his own restaurant came true in February, when he and his wife, Jessica, bought Niko’s Bakery & Cafe in Wesleyan Park Plaza from the Nousiadis family.
Then, a month later, they had to close the dining room when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“It didn’t feel like we had made a good decision,” Weafer said last week. “It was a very stressful time. But we went into survival mode and tried to think of everything people might want.”
He said, “We started selling family meals, added a butcher shop with local meats, have coffee from local roasters and created burger and meal prep kits for people to fix at home.”
And suddenly, the lemons that the pandemic threw at the Weafers turned into lemonade.
The building on the south side of Wesleyan Park Plaza “was built to handle everything the pandemic threw at us with a drive up and online ordering,” he said. “We’ve been busier during this pandemic than we were before. We offer something that people have been wanting.”
Niko’s was so busy that the Weafers had to hire three more people to handle all the business, bringing the staff to 18.
In February, 80% of the business was in the 36-seat dining room.
Today, Weafer said, 60% is drive-thru.
“One of the biggest challenges we had before this was to make people aware of the drive-thru and our app,” he saiid. “Now, the app is about 50% of our orders. It’s so handy.”
The small dining room could accommodate 18 people now, based on 50% seating capacity.
But Weafter said, “We’re keeping the tables six feet apart, so we can’t handle that many.”
He said, “A lot of restaurants can’t survive on 33% of capacity or even 50%.”
That’s why having the drive-thru window was so important.
“Lunch is our busiest meal,” Weafer said. “But we’re selling twice as many pastries as before in the mornings. Saturday 8 a.m. is really busy.”
He said, “We took special orders on Easter and cars were lined up all the way across the parking lot to Kroger.”
Weafer said Wesleyan Park Plaza merchants are planning a block party this summer with live music.
The restaurant has added works by local artists that are available for purchase.
“Cole Fogle, one of our baristas, is one of the artists featured now,” Weafer said. “Kelsey Boarman is the other. We’ll keep rotating it.”
He said, “I’m blown away by all the local coffee enthusiasts. We have Stave, Big Turkey Foot and Mylke. It’s all great coffee.”
Weafer said, “We’ve had huge requests for vegan food and vegan soup.”
The restaurant sells products at the Owensboro Regional Farmers Market.
“It’s doing surprisingly well this year,” Weafer said.
He said, “We love this part of town. We’re centrally located and things are happening here again.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 email@example.com