May 15—Amy Summerford and Kirk Mulcahy were coming up on the fourth anniversary of their popular Fayetteville restaurant The Station in the spring of 2020.
But when Covid-19 hit, the uncertainty that arrived with it caused the partners to reassess their business model.
"We were so paralyzed in the initial stages of Covid, after the lockdown ended and all of the rules and regulations were changing every day about what you could and couldn't do with food and food services," Summerford recalled. "It was so hard to keep up with."
Initially, West Virginia's restaurants were only permitted to operate as takeaway. Inside seating was permitted at various capacity levels as Covid numbers changed and time passed.
Summerford, however, said The Station, known for casual fine dining, was not built for that type of operation.
"It didn't really suit our format of food to be doing it to-go," she said. "And at the end of the day, we didn't ethically feel good about being open without knowing much about Covid at that point in the game."
So, she and Mulcahy shut the doors.
Before long, the partners decided it was time to move forward with another business that had been in the works pre-Covid.
"It was always kind of going to be 'the next business,'" Summerford said of the local market and grocery store she and Mulcahy had planned to open in Fayetteville. "It was kind of always going to be in addition to The Station as another way of getting local food and products into the community."
But instead of finding a separate home for their new business and operating The Station under the ever-changing state and federal guidelines, Summerford and Mulcahy decided to pivot completely.
"So, rather than reimagining a different restaurant," Summerford explained, "(we decided) let's just go ahead with this other business model that's been rolling around in the back of our brains anyhow and will lend itself more readily to wearing a mask indoors, social distancing and being more of an essential business.
"Because people have to be able to go out and get groceries but they don't have to go out to eat."
Finally in November, after having been closed since the initial lockdown, The Station reopened as a local grocer.
Summerford and Mulcahy's new business is similar to their old business in many ways.
Though The Station is no longer a restaurant, it still sources food from the same local farms.
Now, however, instead of offering meals prepared from beef from Greenbrier County's Swift Level Fine Meats or chicken raised at Fayette County's Deep Mountain Farm, The Station offers customers an opportunity to purchase the meat themselves and prepare it at home.
"We have something like 30 different options between beef, poultry, pork and lamb in the freezer at all times," Summerford said.
Customers can also purchase value-added products like jams, jellies, baked goods, and pickled items.
"All of the really amazing local products that we used to serve plated are now available for you to take home and experiment with on your own," Summerford said.
The Station also offers a lunch menu featuring tacos, salads and a variety of sandwiches such as chicken salad, shaved lamb, barbecue, and chicken salad.
Customers can also purchase desserts, whole smoked chickens, chicken salad, soups, pickled items and more from the store's grab-and-go cooler.
And Summerford said those who grab a to-go lunch can also enjoy a local beer, cider or glass of wine from the bar.
"The bar is not necessarily open all the time, but you can enjoy your lunch and grab a beer," she said.
----Though The Station was a successful restaurant, Summerford said she and Mulcahy have no plans to reopen the business as it was. She does, however, say as it becomes better staffed, they hope to add more services and eventually a plated dinner service at the bar.
For now, though, she said they're focused on serving the community.
"While the change wasn't necessarily planned, we are pleased without the outcome," Summerford said of the pandemic-related move. "The mission of getting local products into the community has always been really important to us. This gives us the outlet still and maybe even more-so than when we were a restaurant."
The Station, located at 312 N. Court St. in Fayetteville, is closed Wednesdays.
Visit The Station on Facebook for more information or call 304-900-5516.