John Lopez hasn’t stopped working since the pandemic started.
As co-owner of Chip and Kale, a local plant-based meal kit delivery service, he’s seen a dramatic increase in sales since March.
Unlike a restaurant, his business and others like it were already designed for online ordering and no-contact delivery of DIY dishes that arrive portioned and frozen for extended storage.
“When we started, we saw our online food business as something that, over time, would gradually take shape in the eyes of people as online shopping, plus a very busy American lifestyle, would lead to more and more services being purchased online,” Lopez says. “Covid has changed that to the immediate and we are reevaluating our future forecast to meet those demands.”
Chip and Kale expanded to include curbside pickup and is adding more prep cooks and delivery drivers.
Even celebrities are jumping on the meal delivery bandwagon. Wiz Khalifa, a Grammy-nominated recording artist from Pittsburgh, partnered with Nextbite to launch HotBox by Wiz, a delivery-only restaurant chain.
The menu features Wiz’s favorite dishes, including Mac & Yellow, a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese, Blazed Ends, burnt brisket ends smothered in a smoky-sweet barbeque sauce, and the Taylor Gang Turkey Burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo.
Customers in metro areas such as Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Denver, Houston and New York City can order via all major online delivery apps.
Salty Pork Bits, Justin Severino’s online charcuterie company, helped the chef keep his other culinary ventures afloat during the shutdown and now has its own brick-and-mortar shop in Lawrenceville.
While more families are dining in, they’re combating cabin fever with outdoor activities.
Every Tuesday since June 2, people have flocked to the Lawrenceville Farmer’s Market in Arsenal Park to stock up on fruits and vegetables, dry goods and specialty items in an open-air environment.
By mid-July, Market Manager Sara Draper-Zivetz was receiving requests from customers and vendors alike to extend the season past its scheduled Oct. 27 finale.
Draper-Zivetz delivered. The market will now run through Dec. 15. Due to earlier sunsets, it will shorten its hours to 3 to 6 p.m. starting on Nov. 3 and will also provide lighting in the park. A curbside pickup program, LFM To Go, will be available and a delivery option is being considered, particularly for older adults and higher-risk populations who can’t access the market as easily.
If attendance is steady through the winter months, she hopes to make the market a year-round destination.
“We’re eager to see how the seven-week extension goes and will reassess later in the year,” Draper-Zivetz says. “The food access challenges of our community (e.g. limited grocery stores and other food retailers) won’t go away on December 15 when our extension ends, so the idea of evolving towards a year-round market to meet our community’s ongoing food needs is definitely on the table and mission-aligned for us as a nonprofit organization.”
Craig Cozza, owner of Pro Bike + Run, says he always spends the winter months prepping for the busy — and competitive — spring season. Quarantine made it even busier. As soon as warm weather returned and the state-mandated quarantine was lifted, people were eager to get outside, powered by two legs or two wheels.
“It was crazy,” Cozza says, “sometimes lines as long as 20 people to get into the store, but customers appreciated our efforts and our team really stepped up their game. It was exciting to be a part of so many people getting out there running and riding.”
“Get outside” has become the company motto. Demand is high and inventory is running low, but Cozza is ordering big for 2021 to keep his stores — including the new Strip District location, which will open in the spring — stocked.
“We are hiring and continue to grow with the mission of getting everyone out there having a great experience mind, body and spirit,” he says.
Christine Iksic, co-founder and community outreach and marketing director for 3 Rivers Outdoor Co., says the store is fairing well through the pandemic, with sales in June and July up over past years. Many items have sold-out completely and won’t be back on the shelves until 2021 due to a manufacturing backlog.
Adam Nelson, owner of the Pittsburgh-based wilderness gear company, Daggerfish, grew up in the Great Outdoors thanks to his dad’s job as a National Park ranger.
His business, which he launched in 2019, specializes in compact fishing rods made from natural materials. There are no moving parts, so even novices can learn to cast and reel in about five minutes. He feels that once people catch on, they’ll be hooked … possibly for a lifetime.
Even if he doesn’t have time to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Nelson will put a Daggerfish in his back pocket and head to a pond in Highland Park to catch bluegills and catfish.
“I created this product because I wanted to learn how to fish,” he says. “I never felt like fishing was for me. I had to buy so much stuff and learn so much stuff. It was intimidating. I’m still exploring and learning along with my customers.”