CHICAGO — While many restaurants are facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis, one Wrigleyville restaurant owner has found a way to stay open for business by delivering pizza along with a show of support to those on the hospital front lines.
“We’re on track to be able to donate for the next 10 days, 20 pizzas each day,” Jaime Gamez, owner of Big G’s Pizza, said
Earlier this week Gamez dropped off nearly a dozen pizzas to Norwegian American Hospital on the city’s North Side.
“We are truly humbled to receive this. We are going to be able to feed our doctors, nurses and hospital staff,” Jacquelyn Soto Herrera of Norwegian Hospital said.
Gamez said he knew his business was in trouble last month when Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker put into place a stay-at-home order.
The restaurant owner said his biggest concern was for his employees and longtime managers.
“I was really worried about my longtime friend and co worker Manuel and his wife Lucetta who are my pizza kitchen manager and my prep kitchen manager,” Gamez said.
He took to Facebook and Instagram with a video message to his customers.
“There’s a way that you can help not only Big G’s small business, but the greater city of Chicago specifically staff working at hospitals,” he said in the video.
After starting with his own contribution, Gamez asked for donations to purchase pizzas for local hospitals, which would allow his employees to remain on the payroll.
Donations began to pour in immediately
“People went from being nervous and stressed here at our restaurant — you know worrying about their futures in terms of hours would be like at the store — to we’ve something to do! We have a purpose,” Gamez said.
He believes that purpose is what brings people together.
“This is like a community coming together and finding ways to bring positivity to something that is hard and really stressful for so many people,” he said.
Gamez regularly posts updates and pictures on social media from the thankful and hungry hospital staff he’s feeding. But it’s not just hospitals he’s feeding. The eight years he’s been in business has resulted in a special bond with his customers.
“Someone who has been laid off or recently unemployed, they can come to our restaurant — just grab a Post it Note — and use it as a form of payment for a slice of pizza,” Gamez said.
It’s kept him and his team busy, but said it’s also brought him a feeling of happiness.
“It’s been such a feeling of support. Just a very positive feeling and that’s something that I wasn’t aware that could happen to me and my staff in this crisis,” he said.
Gamez said his team has delivered more than 300 pizzas so far.
For more information about Big G’s Pizza click here.