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I Own a Coffee Shop in a Small Town. We’re the Only Business That Requires Masks.

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This is Eater Voices, where chefs, restaurateurs, writers, and industry insiders share their perspectives about the food world, tackling a range of topics through the lens of personal experience.


I was raised in Philip, South Dakota, a small rural community located 80 miles from the nearest big-box shopping center. I make my living working from home as a software engineer for a large avionics corporation, but about four and a half years ago, my mom, sister, and I became business partners and opened Ginnys coffee shop. After living in Iowa for 13 years and moving back home to Philip, visiting a coffee shop became the biggest void in my daily routine. It was one of the amenities missing from our community.

While the population of Philip is only about 800 people, we’re unique in that we are a pretty self-contained community. We have nearly everything we need right here. There’s a great health care system, including a hospital, a nursing home, and assisted living, as well as dental and eye care. Local shops provide us with groceries, home building and maintenance supplies, and clothing. We have a steakhouse and a few other eating establishments.

Many people didn’t believe COVID-19 would affect our community because we are so remote. When the CDC issued initial guidelines to social distance (Gov. Kristi Noem has resisted statewide lockdowns and health mandates), a few businesses did make some changes. Ginnys went to curbside delivery only, as did the grocery store for a short time, partly because outsiders were traveling to Philip for toilet paper and other supplies (and to visit our bars, which remained open). But for many, it was business as usual.

As far as I’m aware, Ginnys is the only business in town to require masks for employees and customers, the only local business that isn’t back to business as usual, and the only eating establishment in town still not allowing people to come in and sit. We’ve chosen to wear masks to keep our employees, community, and families safe, so we can stay open, and so our kids can stay in school and sports. We’ve given our customers the flexibility of three options to order: customers can order and pay online, then pick up at the back door; call in an order and pick it up at the back door; and most recently, come in and place their order to-go while wearing a mask.

Our mask policy, of course, hasn’t been well received by everyone. It hasn’t helped our business financially. Many people view masks as a political argument over individual rights. We view them as a personal responsibility to keep our neighbors safe. We haven’t had any heated confrontations like you see on the news at Target or Starbucks. If someone ignores our signs and walks in without a mask, we hand them a disposable one. On one occasion, after telling a customer about all the options she had to order, she just said she wasn’t doing any of those things and left. It’s taken many additional hours to offer online ordering, and we had to do it with a very quick turnaround. We feel we’ve done our best to accommodate and serve everyone. If none of our options meet your needs, we regrettably can’t serve you.

A two-story Victorian-style house in a suburb with trees all around
Outside of Ginnys coffee shop in Philip, South Dakota
Courtesy of Ginnys

Today, case numbers are on the rise, both in our county and across South Dakota. The state recently topped the nation in the number of positive cases per capita reported daily. My husband, who has his own computer service business, doesn’t follow the same mask-wearing policies with his customers and tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago. Our two kids and I had to quarantine for two weeks. I tested negative, but it made us feel better at the coffee shop that, if I had gotten it, I and everyone else was wearing a mask. We felt pretty safe I hadn’t passed it on to anybody. Otherwise, it could have shut down our business. Plus, my mom is in her 60s, so she’s more vulnerable.

It’s not easy going against the grain in a small community, but it’s not really new to our family. When my siblings and I were in high school, it was pretty common for our mom to write letters to the editor or appeal school board policies. She’s always tried to do the right thing, even if it makes her unpopular.

My sister and I try to follow her example, but we’ve all found it becomes more challenging as business owners in a small community. There will always be people that oppose your views and express that opposition by not supporting your business. That’s why most business owners will no longer take positions in local government.

I feel that things might be different for our business if our country and state had leadership setting good examples. I don’t necessarily think a statewide mask mandate is necessary, but masks would be more accepted in rural communities like Philip if leadership was setting the example. People want to keep businesses open for the economy. I believe we can do that, but wear your mask. As COVID-19 cases and death rates continue to rise in South Dakota and our community, people may decide we’re not so stupid.

We’ve lost customers, but continue to gain new ones. I know there are some people who appreciate the way we’re doing business. They can feel safe getting their coffee and shopping our in-store merchandise. Though the pandemic has been a hardship for our business, I’m confident we’ll survive. People have come to enjoy the convenience of our online ordering system, which we didn’t have pre-pandemic, and hopefully they’ll continue to use it in the future. My family wouldn’t suffer financial hardship if the cafe doesn’t survive, but we feel a sense of responsibility to keep our doors open because the space has become a big asset to our community. We are grateful to those who have supported us through everything and just can’t wait until we can go back to business as usual.

Trisha Larson is co-owner of Ginnys coffee shop in Philip, South Dakota.

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The Eater Guide on How to Help During the Crisis

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Not all that long ago it seemed like if the pandemic weren’t exactly over by now, then at least the worst of it would be. But the summer didn’t make things any simpler. Cases continued to spread, and fires and hurricanes ravaged the West and Gulf Coast. As the weather turned colder, more states began allowing indoor activities and face-to-face school. As a result, the virus appears to be surging once more. It is increasingly clear that not only will thousands more Americans likely die as a direct result of COVID-19 by the end of 2020, but the mass misery of the economic devastation it has unleashed — suffering disproportionately endured by Black and Latinx communities — will not lift anytime soon. 

Benefits like the federal $600 a week unemployment expansion ran out or contracted for more than 25 million Americans in July and the federal government has failed to agree on the terms of a new aid package. Organizations that provide food and housing assistance to low-income people across the country, already strained by the last several months of the pandemic and the government’s appallingly incompetent — and at times malevolent — response, are scrambling to meet a tidal wave of need. As roughly 40 percent of restaurants on the brink of closing forever, programs that aid people in the food industry are also seeking further support so they can continue to provide assistance to worker who remain unemployed or underemployed. Groups representing Indigenous communities, undocumented immigrants, farmworkers, and people of color are also mobilizing to get assistance to marginalized people and lay a foundation for a more resilient food system — because while it’s an extraordinary time of need, it’s also not new. 

Hunger and poverty have always been the U.S.’s most shameful open secrets. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, as of 2018 more than 13 percent of people in the U.S. lived below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau, while a full 78 percent of U.S. workers lived paycheck to paycheck. The pandemic and its economic fallout have put those statistics into ever starker relief, as the nation’s working class and its poorest residents have faced the largest health burden from the virus. Several studies have estimated that pandemic-related job losses and increased food costs have roughly doubled food insecurity in the U.S., and No Kid Hungry estimates that one quarter of children around the country could face food insecurity in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. 

In this guide, Eater has identified a range of programs, organizations, and charities fighting hunger, developing sustainable food networks, and providing support to the roughly 31 million people who are unemployed or are working less than they’d like to be due to this global medical disaster. These are places that are stepping in to do work in their communities where governments and elected officials have left people behind. Collected here are opportunities for giving and volunteering in and around the United States and its territories, at both the national and the local level, as well as in the U.K. Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more impactful because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out and asking.

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Trump Teases an ‘EPIC’ Election Night Party at His D.C. Hotel Despite Capacity Limits

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Despite D.C.’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, President Donald Trump’s campaign has teased plans to host a party for election night on Tuesday, November 3, at the Trump International Hotel downtown. Fundraising emails from Donald Trump Jr. include details on a “sweepstakes” to fly a supporter to D.C. for a party described in all-caps as “EPIC,” “ELECTRIC,” and “INCREDIBLE.”

Under D.C.’s Phase 2 reopening restrictions, mass gatherings are capped at a maximum capacity of 50 people. Restaurants are still limited to half-capacity seating with no standing and no countertop service from bartenders. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she wasn’t aware of plans for the party until Monday, October 26, Washingtonian reports.

The location of the election night party is unclear, but the opulent hotel has multiple ballrooms and event spaces. The hotel includes a location of celebrity chef David Burke’s BLT Prime steakhouse. Lobby-level bar Benjamin serves $23 glasses of sangria and $120 seafood towers. Nearby, more affordable pub Harry’s has already seen pro-Trump crowds openly flouting mask requirements and other protocols meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. After he survived a case, Trump told Americans, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

On election night four years ago, the recently opened hotel was the site of an impromptu and raucous gathering for supporters watching the numbers roll in on large TVs framing its gold bar. The controversial Pennsylvania Avenue hotel near the White House has been sold out for weeks on and around Election Day at rates going for $1,200 a night, the Associated Press reports.

The fine print in the sweepstakes notes the campaign can move the date of the trip and the location of the hotel stay at its discretion. The prize also includes a photo op with Trump. The supposedly randomly chosen winner, who is subject to a background check, will be responsible for all ground transportation, meals, and all other expenses during the duration of the trip.

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Eater Staffers Pick Their Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

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Now that we are over the sourdough-and-regrowing-scallions part of the pandemic, but in no way over the actual pandemic, we must prepare for The Hunkering. Every winter is a time for stews, roasts, and hearty pasta bakes, but this winter it feels extra important, both because most of us are going to be indoors way more than any previous season, and have completely lost the energy to do anything but throw a bunch of stuff in a pot. Which obviously means it’s time to break out the Instant Pots.

A few years ago it seemed like electric multicookers, especially the Instant Pot, may have just been a fad. But the fact that in one appliance you can cook anything from soup to pudding to bread makes it pretty ideal for cooking during quarantine fatigue. Eater’s staffers rounded up our favorite go-to Instant Pot recipes, perfect for the many nights when you’re in the mood for something delicious, but you know, wanting to do as little as possible to make it happen. And as Eater Dallas and Eater Houston editor Amy McCarthy noted, you could always go with “just some fucking chicken breasts,” and let the machine do the rest.


Beef barley soup: This is the first that comes to mind. It’s basically a textbook version of this classic soup, and perfect for chilly weather. It’s low-lift, reasonably quick to put together, and freezes well. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Dakbokkeumtang: I make this recipe when I’m craving a savory chicken dish with the volume turned up. All that delicious flavor comes from the sauce. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and spicy from gochujang and sugar. Doenjang and oyster sauce adds another layer of depth. Typically to make this Korean comfort dish, you would need to watch over the pot, making sure that the chicken pieces are soaking up the sauce. But everything is done in the Instant Pot, so the result is fall-off-the-bone, tender chicken with potatoes that just break apart with no effort at all. Also, who doesn’t love a dump-everything-and-press-the-button recipe?! — James Park, social media manager

Mac and cheese: I make this one once a week when I’m lazy and cooking sounds hard. I use whatever cheese is in the fridge, add a little brown mustard to the mix, and usually skip the milk or add it at the very end. Would suggest you grate the mozzarella or it becomes a blob. — Brenna Houck, editor at Eater Detroit

Chinese poached whole chicken: Basically, I get a whole chicken every week, and I got tired of roasting it. This recipe is a really easy — not entirely foolproof, but a good enough way to poach a chicken whole in about 40 to 50 minutes, with not too much work on my part. You can use it specifically as white-cut chicken over rice with, say, a ginger scallion sauce, but just as often I pull the meat off the carcass and use it for meals throughout the week. Two caveats: You really do need an instant-read thermometer to tell when it’s done, and I find it’s much better to salt the chicken 24 hours in advance (I use the method in Salt Fat Acid Heat), so it has enough taste. And after poaching the chicken and pulling off the meat, I often toss the carcass right back into its cooking liquid, cook it on manual for another 60 minutes, and end up with a bunch of chicken stock. — Meghan McCarron, special correspondent

Kosha mangsho: This is a traditional Bengali goat or lamb stew in a heavily spiced, yogurt gravy, and it’s intensely rich and comforting. This recipe uses a pressure cooker to save time, but on the offchance you landed on this page and don’t have an Instant Pot or the like, you can still just simmer it in a large pot. — Jaya Saxena, staff writer

Lemongrass coconut chicken: The sauce is unbelievably tasty for just a few ingredients and it comes together so quickly. The labor to flavor ratio makes it one of my go-tos when I get bored with cooking or can’t be bothered to put in much effort. It’s also great over rice or any other grain. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Houston and Eater Dallas associate editor

Basic chicken noodle soup: I make a basic chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot probably every week in the winter: The base recipe is two chicken breasts, a carton and a half of broth, a few cups (I eyeball it) roughly chopped diced celery, carrot, and onion, and whatever spices you want. Cook everything together on high pressure for 25 mins. You can quick-release the pressure and remove the chicken breasts, and shred them — while you’re shredding, set the pot’s saute function so the broth remains boiling and add egg noodles. Once the noodles are cooked, dump the shredded chicken back in and you’re done! This is perfect because frozen chicken works just as well (and at the same cook time), and you can experiment with any leafy greens at the end (throw them in when you add the noodles) and any noodle types you want. — Erin DeJesus, lead editor, Eater.com

Pork chile verde: This recipe is very good; I found it last year when I had a truckload of tomatillos from my garden. It is a great comfort food and works well as stew or tacos. — Brenna Houck, Editor at Eater Detroit

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