Restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on businesses across the state and locally-owned cafés and restaurants in Amador and Calaveras counties are no exception. With many people cooking at home more frequently, and many more dealing with strained budgets; combined with necessary reductions in capacity and social distancing, establishments like Perko’s Café in Jackson have felt the impact.
Owner Deanna Lambka explained the difficulties she and her staff at Perko’s Café have been working to overcome in recent months to remain open and serve the community.
“It’s been tough,” Lambka said. “I’ve been here for 21 years and I have never seen anything this extreme to where we are down 45 to 50 percent in customers.”
Last week, in response to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, Amador County was moved from the Orange tier back to the more restrictive Red tier in the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
For Perko’s and other local restaurants, that move further limited capacity to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is less. Keeping the doors open for customers and keeping employees working as the financial burden grows has made it a real struggle for local businesses to stay open.
“We have had to change our hours, which are now from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and also corporate has had to increase our prices around 3 to 5 percent to make it,” Lambka said. “But, we have kept our employees and are making sure they get enough hours. I just love people – I’ve never met a stranger and when people come in like my regulars, it’s my pleasure to serve them, connect with them, make them happy and make a difference.”
Beginning her career with Perko’s Café at age 15 in Stockton, Deanna has made her footprint on the franchise and made the business a family affair, with her children following suit.
“It’s very emotional for me because I love this company,” she said. “I love working right with people and serving them up a great meal … and we do have the best breakfast, just saying. It’s just not about the food on the plate, it’s the way that those eggs are served that is what’s special.”
In Jackson, Perko’s staff wear face coverings – and encourage customers to also wear face coverings – and constantly clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces throughout the establishment. Although dine-in meals are available and safety guidelines are being followed, takeout is encouraged for those concerned about the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Although there is still so much uncertainty about what the coming months will bring, one thing for certain is that the resilience of small-town businesses will continue to be tested and the support of the local community will be more important than ever.