The buzz of people visiting inside restaurant dining rooms has returned to New Albany.
One of the restaurants that was full of life again was 2 Sisters Diner. After having its dining room closed for eight to nine weeks, the restaurant reopened its doors for breakfast Monday.
“We’re excited to have everybody this morning,” said 2 Sisters Diner owner Carolyn Davis. “We’ve been fairly busy. People are wanting to come back in.”
Many regular customers were back in the restaurant Monday morning. It’s a “wonderful” feeling to see people back inside the dining room, said Davis.
“They want as much normalcy back in their life as we do, and they need that,” said Davis, adding that God is in control. “I’m excited to see how this is going to go.”
She noted that the restaurant is doing everything it can to create a safe environment. Under the governor’s guidelines, the number of customers in the restaurant cannot exceed 50 percent of seating capacity. There must be at least 6 feet of space between each group, and there cannot be more than six people at a table.
“We are following all the guidelines,” Davis said.
Jim Roberts was enjoying breakfast with several other people Monday morning at 2 Sisters Diner. He said he was a regular at the restaurant before the pandemic hit.
“We retracted from society so to speak,” said Roberts, who likes eating at 2 Sisters Diner because it offers “Good food, good people, good conversation.”
Roberts and his wife are both retired and missed the restaurant while its dining room was closed. They decided to come back to the restaurant the first morning it reopened for breakfast.
“We thought we’d just come down and see who all was here,” he said.
James White is another regular at 2 Sisters Diner, and he said he missed the food while the dining room was closed. Asked what he likes to eat at 2 Sisters Diner, White said, “Just about anything they’ve got.”
Jerry Tutor, who eats at 2 Sisters Diner often, said he missed seeing his friends while the dining room was closed. He said he enjoys visiting with people in the restaurant to “solve all the world’s problems.”
Davis said she is thankful for all the support her restaurant received while the dining room was closed.
“They have supported local mom and pop businesses,” she said. “I can’t say thank you enough for that.”
In the meantime, she is praying that her business bounces back fast now that her dining room is partially open again. But she knows a lot of people are still nervous about getting out. She said those people can still call in their orders and have them brought to their car or delivered.
The Vintage Market on Bankhead Street is another restaurant that has reopened its dining room. It feels “wonderful” to be open again, said Vintage Market owner Sandra Wilson.
“We’re looking for a great day,” Wilson said.
Several people were enjoying breakfast at the Vintage Market on Thursday morning, and it feels great to have customers back inside the restaurant, Wilson added.
“We’ve just been laughing and carrying on,” she said. “Everybody’s so excited about us being back.”
Glenda and Eugene Mobley of New Albany were two of the customers who were enjoying breakfast at the Vintage Market the first day it reopened.
“We couldn’t wait to get back,” Glenda said.
The Mobleys are regulars at the restaurant and enjoy the eggs, sausage, toast and hashbrowns.
“We come Tuesday and Thursday,” said Glenda.
Eugene said, “they’ve got a great breakfast,” adding that the Vintage Market offers a “good ole homestyle atmosphere.”
Judy Mclarty is one of the staff members, and she said, “I am glad to be back at work.” Mclarty missed the customers while the restaurant was closed.
Mclarty said the restaurant also has a good lunch with items such as chicken salad sandwiches, pimento cheese, ice cream and milkshakes to just name a few.
“People like to sit and visit,” said Wilson. “I’ve missed that so much, just seeing all the customers coming in. Some of them sit and talk for 30 minutes or an hour.”
Being closed for more than a month has been “very, very tough” on the business, said Wilson. Coming back after such a long closure almost feels like starting over, she added.
“We’ll see how we do,” Wilson said. “It just depends on if we have the customers coming in or not.”
Some people may not be coming out to eat yet. She noted that the business has a lot of customers who are senior citizens, and they may still be staying at home.
Hopefully, everything goes well and this will be the best year ever, said Wilson, who is counting on the business bouncing back quickly.
“We’re ready to go,” she said. “We’ve had a good rest.”
El Agave’s dining room in New Albany also reopened last Thursday.
All of the staff members were wearing masks and gloves, and cleaning was being done routinely, said owner Moises Lemus.
He said his restaurant is just trying to follow all of the government safety guidelines.
“We’re just ready to move forward,” Lemus said, adding that his dining room was closed for four to six weeks.
It feels good to have the dining room reopened, he noted.
“It’s like taking a step back to normal,” he said. “I like seeing customers dine in.”
As soon as the governor announced that restaurants could reopen under certain conditions, people were calling El Agave to see if it would reopen. Lemus said the drive-thru is still available for those customers who are not comfortable dining out yet.
But he said “so far it’s been a good turnout” of people eating in the dining room.
“Customers came in right at 11,” he said. “They were ready. They were waiting on us.”
Greg Galloway was one of those customers, and he is a regular at El Agave. Galloway said he was ready to dine inside El Agave again because “we were tired of going through the drive-thru here.”
While the dining room was closed, Galloway said he went through El Agave’s drive-thru quite a bit. He said he supports El Agave as well as his brother’s restaurant in Myrtle called Smokehouse.
“We give both of them a lot of business,” Galloway said.
It was past time for restaurants to start opening their dining rooms again, Galloway added.