Tiger Town Pizza supported by St. John community

Madalynn Wilson

Tiger Town Pizza completely shut their doors on April 1 and weren’t able to open them again until almost a month later on April 25. Even now, they are only doing carry-out orders in the evenings as many of their staff members don’t feel safe to return to work and they haven’t been able to hire any new workers.

“When we had to shut down there was that fear of when will we be able to reopen again or will we be able to reopen at all? That was very scary for all of our employees,” Ashley Haney, the restaurant’s manager said.

As the restaurant was created by high school students in their Applied Business class, the staff is mostly made up of high school students as a way to give back to them. Haney explained that although it hit the adult staff the hardest (the kitchen manager won’t be able to work until next week and she has bills to pay), she knows that some of the students also have to pay for their own food and even have bills of their own to pay.

“It was really hard for me to make the decision because I know how much we do for the community and how much this job means to those high school students,” Haney said.

The restaurant is community-oriented and they are always working to give back to the community in creative ways. Since Haney took over last September, she has worked to make Tiger Town a fun space for everyone. They have a partnership with the school so when kids meet their AR (Accelerated Reader) point goals, they get a free personal pan at Tiger Town. They had a full photo booth around Halloween, a candy cane tree around Christmas, and hearts with every kids name that ate there filled the walls around Valentine’s Day. She also had decorating plans for Easter but those went out the window when COVID-19 hit.

When they were able to open for carry-out only, the community showed how much they truly care about their neighborhood pizza place.

“That first day we opened, we brought in a record number of sales. That night was about the 5th highest amount we brought in since we’ve been open for the past two years. It’s great to have that kind of support from the town to know they are also working to keep us in business.”

The staff that has been able to return is taking as many precautions as possible to keep themselves and their customers safe. All staff are required to wear masks and the kitchen staff wear gloves at all times. No customers are allowed to come inside the restaurant, the workers will meet them on the curb to take their money and give them their food and change.

At this point, everything is still touch and go and Haney is not sure when they will be able to open their regular dining area to costumers. She is shooting for June, but even then she’s not sure how much it will help.

“We already have a small dining area so even when we can open up, if we still have to keep social distancing, we can only seat about 7 of our 13 tables.”

Until then, with the launch of their soft reopening and their community’s support, Tiger Town has been able to stay afloat. However, they have not yet received any monetary assistance from the government. The federal government passed a bill that promised about 350 billion dollars to rescue small businesses. Tiger Town has applied and been approved, but they are still waiting for more information as to how much money they will receive, when they will get it, and how they are supposed to spend it.

Community support continues to help them stay in business.