Dining During COVID: Tuscarora Mill adapts to pandemic

The life that COVID-19 gave us was unexpected. But restaurant manager Colin Malone didn’t give up no matter the circumstances. He has adjusted to this new lifestyle and has helped his restaurant, Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, adjust as well.

With COVID being with us for about a year now, normal day lives have changed and there was plenty to reflect on. Restaurants like Tuscarora Mill have had to shift their operations in response to frequently-changing CDC guidelines and governor’s orders. In the beginning of the pandemic, the restaurant closed, they lost their revenue and their weddings, banquets, and special events. Then, as it began to slowly reopen, they created a curbside pick-up program and an outdoor seating area. “We are hoping that we are nearing the end of this situation we are in,” Malone said. “It’s been a trying year and very stressful at times and we have learned with our employees because they are very resilient and very adaptable with all that we have asked them to do.”

Adaptations to the COVID lifestyle were needed. Malone’s life quickly changed as the pandemic disrupted everyday operations. “I have to wear a mask and our children aren’t in school anymore,” Malone said. “So our day to day routine has changed a great deal.”

Not only did Malone need to adapt, but his staff needed help too. When the pandemic first hit, a lot of people had to file for unemployment and this caused them to not have a source of income for their necessities, and in the time that they were in, they needed aid with their financial life. Malone wanted to make sure that they would also move smoothly and get help if they needed help. “We’ve set up a GoFundMe page, so any needs they have or financially speaking we’ve been able to assist with that and we’ve helped with health insurance and paying for that, so we’ve done everything we can to help people get through this,” he said.

The restaurant needed to change too. Some things were lost while new things were created to help keep social distancing. “We had to somewhat change our business model and put out a tent on our front parking lot for outdoor seating, of course, to space the tables and adjust our menu,” Malone said. “For a long time during COVID we didn’t have any seating at all so we had to create a curbside program, but we did lose our banquets, weddings, and special events, so that has been a big blow for the business.”

There are some things that the restaurant has lost, but with that loss was an opportunity for new things to be created. “We’ve tried new things that have been successful and therefore will probably stick with,” Malone said. “The curbside program is something that we will continue to do and it has helped us build a brand with the program and has helped us in many ways.”

There have been challenges and obstacles that the restaurant faced. But regardless of those challenges, Malone is happy with how the business still runs. “Everyone has done a great job and has been very adaptable and there have been some people that had to take on different roles that they had not anticipated,” Malone said. “It’s not been ideal but we’ve had to deal with what we’re given but everyone is in the same boat so we are all happy that we are not alone in this.”

As with much of the globe, this pandemic has really affected the Leesburg area and it has made life very difficult and made us all eager for life to go back to the way life was before COVID. “If I had a wand I would make it so that COVID never happened, but there have been some good things to come from it,” Malone said. “As a net it has not been great for the restaurant and of course the public at large, but who could’ve seen this one coming?”

Malone believes we just have to give it time before life can go back to normal. “We do hope that once it gets back to whatever normal is on the other side of this, will be better for it and more successful, but this experience will help us learn,” he said. “We’ll have weddings come back and all of that fun stuff and people will be ready to get out at it again.”

For Malone, if this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we have to make adaptations to this lifestyle but it doesn’t mean that we should let it have complete control over us. The community has been understanding with the business and has been donating money to help with their revenue and these donations have been very generous and they wouldn’t be where they are if it weren’t for the community. “Without the community we wouldn’t be in business still, so the greatest appreciation we have is for the community and all the people that have supported us,” he said.