MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Many small business owners are changing their business plans to make it through the coronavirus pandemic. Molly Sullivan, who owns Miss Molly’s Café and Pastry Shop, is one of them. In the last few weeks, she’s found a way to keep her business running, pay her employees and help the community.
“So tonight is taco Tuesday. We are doing corn tortillas,” Molly Sullivan said, pointing to a stack of fresh tortillas.
A large table in her Milwaukee restaurant was covered in containers of fresh guacamole, shredded chicken and fresh veggies. Employees were bustling around, putting together dozens of dinner meal kits.
“We are doing these dinner meal kits every night of the week. You can pick up or we'll deliver it to your house. My husband will deliver it to you,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
Each meal kit feeds a family of four and costs $40. During this pandemic, the meal kits are doing much more. They’re helping Miss Molly’s stay open.
“I went through, definitely, a stage of panic and just very scared,” she explained.
Under normal circumstance, the Milwaukee café serves breakfast and lunch, but Sullivan had to improvise when the pandemic hit.
“Any small business owner I'm sure felt and still feels the same,” she said.
A few weeks in, Sullivan said she’s hitting her stride. Between the curbside take-out and the dinner meal kits, she’s kept five employees on full-time.
“We've kind of developed a whole new business model over the last three weeks,” Sullivan said.
Sous chef Irina Finley said she’s been working 12 hour days.
“It's been long days. It's been a lot more work,” Finley said. “We're grateful for it. It's hard times, for everyone. We're all adjusting and trying to do it quickly.”
Part of Miss Molly’s new business model also includes giving back. Sullivan said her cousin, who lives out of state, helped come up with the idea.
“She wanted to help us. She was like, I wish I could order one of the dinners, but I don't live here,” Sullivan explained. “So could I just buy it for someone else?”
Someone else turned out to be health care workers. Customers pay for meals online, Miss Molly’s employees make them, and Sullivan and her husband deliver them to local hospitals. They started at Froedtert, but it’s been so popular, they’ve branched out.
“Aurora Sinai, Columbia St. Mary's,” she said. “This week we have a few going to St. Joseph's.”
The day CBS 58 visited, a customer called in to pay for 50 boxed lunches for medical workers.
“It's been a really positive thing. I think for the community, and also for my employees,” she said. “I think my employees feel like they're helping.”
“I think that's awesome. I definitely think they're working endless hours and they deserve all the meals and all the help they can get,” Finley said.
The plan is helping her business, her employees and the community get through a tough time.
“It helps our doors stay open. It helps our employees stay paid. And then it helps the people who are out there working in the hospitals,” Sullivan said. “And people can also feel good that they're doing something to help those people.”
That’s part of what Sullivan wanted to do when she opened Miss Molly’s nearly three years ago.
“I wanted to have a community restaurant, and this has kind of been a telltale sign that we are,” she said. “We really are part of the framework of this neighborhood and they do care about us and we care about them. It's a mutual relationship.”