From stay-home orders to business and beach closures, everyone's daily life has shifted surrounding recent events. Beloved local restaurants like Empamamas in Tampa are among those affected. Despite new challenges, some business owners are determined to make it work.
In an interview with Narcity, the 34-year-old owner of Empamamas, Stephanie Swanz, said she was in a rough place when she had to put 17 employees out of work following the closure of Armature Works last week.
"I 100% support the closure and understand how important it is for public health," said Swanz, "but I also knew I needed to get creative and figure out how to keep things going so I could bring people back on."
The 34-year-old was breaking down when a friend and fellow restaurant owner, Joe Dodd of King of the Coop, called her to offer up his space so she could continue running her business.
"I cried on the phone with him..." Swanz recalled, "He said to me, 'Listen, I have two kitchen spaces and we're only using one. The other one is yours to use if you need it.'"
Thanks to Dodd, Swanz was able to keep 3 employees working and made a transition into selling her empanadas online, which are now available for delivery for the first time ever via Uber Eats in the Tampa Bay area.
Their shop opens up daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a temporarily limited menu, where you can get their Tampa Girl Cuban sandwich or Cheeseburger In Paradise stuffed empanadas and signature sauce-covered Bang Bang Chicken Tenders and Fries.
An overwhelming number of people also reached out to the Empa Mama offering an array of services during a time that has been stressful for her. Swanz said they offered everything from photography work to legal help.
"It's crazy how different our lives are right now...Small businesses need the support now more than ever and it's been amazing to see the community come together to support each other in times like these."
Both Dodd and Swanz are working together under the same roof, but they've also been maintaining their social distance.
The restauranteur friends snapped a photo of themselves bumping elbows as they work side by side in front of King of the Coop's signature chicken king mural.
The duo is also working to offer contactless curbside pick-up in the coming days.
Swanz says she hopes to have this option up and running within the next 72 hours but will continue to post updates to Empamamas social media as to when contactless curbside will officially be available.
Customers craving the crispy Cuban sandwich stuffed empanada or any of the other goodies from the limited menu will be able to place an order on Empamamas' website and pick them up at King of the Coop, located at 6607 N Florida Ave in Tampa.
Despite this set of struggles, Stephanie expressed that her mission continues to stay the same — service with a smile.
"It may be our millionth empanada but we're gonna treat every customer like it's our first."