Challenges from early in pandemic continue for some Wichita ‘mom and pops’

Lily Wu checks in with Wichita restaurant owners who continue to face challenges nearly two years after the pandemic began.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Two years ago, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a stay-at-home order for the State of Kansas. Some businesses shut down and then reopened, facing new challenges.

This week, Eyewitness News spoke with owners of a local catering business who continue to face challenges from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, March 29, is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day. The U.S. Small Business Administration says there are more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S.

Among them is a Lebanese American restaurant that’s called Wichita home for more than 40 years. The Olive Tree has been moving around Wichita since 1979. The catering kitchen currently is the southeast part of town at Harry and Webb Road.

“That’s the definition of being a mom and pop, is that you’re still around after 40 years,” said Oliver Tree chef and part owner Randa Toubia.

Randa’s sister, Joumana, is also a chef and part owner at the restaurant. The sisters say mom and pop businesses like theirs have seen ups and downs as they continue to experience pandemic-related challenges.

“Costs are still going up in just about everything you can think of,” Randa said. “So, it’s constant adjusting.”

Joumana said they used to get calls from teens and young adult, asking if the restaurant was hiring.

“That never happens now. It used to be they’d walk in,” she said.

While the food and hospitality sectors have faced supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages, other small business owners are seeing more opportunity.

“Overall, business is really going pretty well,” said Wichita Independent Business Association President Wendell Funk.

COMING UP AT 6 📺 Hear more from Wichita Independent Business Association and the owners of Olive Tree Catering on this National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day.

Posted by Lily Wu - KWCH on Tuesday, March 29, 2022

He said people are engaged with local businesses.

“They’re wanting to do business with each other. Honestly, I think our community is really supportive, everybody wants to help businesses be successful here, especially if they’re local,” Funk said.

In the kitchen, the Toubia sisters say the catering business is picking up again, month-after-month.

“We’re back in almost the full swing of things,” Randa said.

The sisters say they’re grateful for their customers. In return, many customers say they’re thankful for local businesses, the “mom and pops.”

“Our community wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have those mom-and-pop, smaller, independent businesses. They’re really the life blood,” Funk said.

Do you have a favorite small business in the Wichita area? Do you own one? Tell us about it in the comments below and give some love to the small businesses in our community! #kwch12

Posted by KWCH 12 Eyewitness News on Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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