At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Sam Sayer — owner of the popular Sam’s Place Deli in downtown Peterborough — began sharing candid video messages on the restaurant’s social media accounts.
The videos are honest and moving — they provide a direct look into how Sayer, as a local restaurant owner, has managed throughout the pandemic’s challenges.
The pandemic has placed many hurdles for local restaurants like Sam’s Place. The current provincial lockdown measures have closed their doors to sit-down dining.
“Just a reminder to people how much hard work and manual labour go into food, particularly in small business,” Sayer says in a video she posted back in August.
“I hope everybody’s doing well and that covid hasn’t got you down too far. I feel like I’m going through waves. There’ve been so many serious decisions that were not easy to come by — financial issues. We’re all there.”
As for why Sayer started posting these videos, she tells kawarthaNOW it was for her own mental health.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to yammer on a lot,” she explains. “I lost all of my staff except for one through the first lockdown. I was so used to having somebody to talk to in the mornings that I found myself getting lost in my own head without that.”
“I thought the opportunity to tell somebody the things I was feeling would make me feel a bit better and a bit saner.”
According to Sayer, although business is currently the slowest she’s seen in a decade, she is grateful for the style of restaurant she has.
“Being a sandwich shop, it was pretty easy to adapt to takeout only because a lot of our business was already takeout,” Sayer pointed out.
Nevertheless, Sam’s Place has made some pivots to adapt to COVID-19, including repurposing a takeout window that staff now use to serve customers safely.
When she and her former business partner Dan Fitchko opened Sam’s Place in 2010, they had installed a window to serve late-night customers — there was a clause in their lease stating their doors could not be open past 10 p.m.
Now, that window is now their primary way of serving customers throughout the pandemic.
“We quickly realized we were too tired and couldn’t do it,” says Sayer. “The window really paid off in the end. It just took 10 years.”
To purchase takeout from Sam’s Place, customers can place an order online with a credit card through their website at www.samsplace.ca or by phoning 705-876-1900. When you arrive at the restaurant, you walk up to the takeout window, tell the staff member your name, and they will give you your order.
There is also an option to order online or by phone and pay on arrival for those who want to pay with cash, debit, or gift card.
If you cannot order ahead, you can still place an order in-store or at the window. Anyone who chooses to enter the building is required to wear a mask. There is hand sanitizer at every entrance, including the window.
All bread and meat at Sam’s Place is locally sourced from Peterborough and the surrounding area so, by supporting Sam’s Place, you’re also supporting local farmers, bakers, and growers.
“It’s always important to support local because, without your local economy, you don’t have much of an economy,” Sayer notes. “This is the mentality I always have, not just for covid.”
Sam’s Place also gives back to the community by supporting charitable organizations. Sayer says this is something she typically likes to keep private because she doesn’t believe the donations should be about herself.
However, when her 16-year old nephew Wyatt’s cancer returned, she decided to use her platform for the first time ever to raise money for him and his family.
For a week in January, 100 per cent of the proceeds raised from a featured sandwich called “The Wyatt” were given to the family.
“Not only is he dealing with cancer, but he’s dealing with cancer in the middle of a pandemic,” Sayer explains. “His parents can’t be together with him in the hospital. It’s just one or the other.”
Sayer continues to encourage the public to donate money to help Wyatt’s family get through this tough time. You can donate through Wyatt’s GoFundeMe page.
Sam’s Place is in the process of another significant change: Sayer is expecting a child in April and wants to take a step back to focus on being a new mother.
She is currently in the process of hiring a manager to replace her in the restaurant.
“I’ll be around,” Sayer assures customers. “I just want to be able to have the baby and not have to be there at the same time.”
“It’s been hard trying to hire people in the middle of the pandemic,” she adds. “I only posted the job application on social media. My restaurant is so important to me, so letting go to have somebody else run it is really difficult. The type of person I want to hire is already familiar with what I do and who I am.”
In the meantime, Sayer encourages the community to complete the City of Peterborough’s survey at connectptbo.ca/downtown, which asks residents what they thought of the temporary changes made to sidewalks and roads in downtown Peterborough last summer and early fall. The results will help to inform decisions for this summer, should similar changes be necessary due to the pandemic. The survey is available until February 15th.
Sayer also wants to remind people to continue to tip industry workers during the pandemic — and to be kind to one another.
“I think it’s important always to support the businesses that you appreciate, patronize, or generally have a love for,” Sayer notes. “Whether there’s a lockdown or not, it’s important to show your support by sharing social media posts and telling people via word-of-mouth what’s so great about them.”
Sam’s Place is located at 188 Hunter Street West in downtown Peterborough, and is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, including the menu, and to order online, visit www.samsplace.ca.