top of page

See how these local businesses adapt by selling household goods during coronavirus pandemic

Source: Author: Colin Gay and David Veselenak Published: Apr 30, 2020

At 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, five cars lined up on Michigan Avenue in Wayne in front of U12 Bar and Grill.

While the light inside the restaurant matched the ambience of a normal bar at its opening — daylight seeping through the windows in a dark room — the tables were filled with hand sanitizer, disinfectant and masks.

US 12 Bar is just one of many businesses that have quickly changed its business model to accommodate shoppers in need during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as to keep their business up and running.

After it was forced to shut down its dining room for in-person customers the day before St. Patrick’s Day — the busiest day of the year for the bar — owner John Goci got a call from the Detroit representative of Sysco, a restaurant wholesale company, about opening up an essential items pop-up shop in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“She said, ‘People are running out of toilet paper and basic essentials, which we have tons of in our warehouse supply chain because of our restaurants being closed,’” Goci said. “‘We can provide you with this stuff.’”

Goci, a Northville native and real estate agent in Plymouth, saw an opportunity to keep his bar open and continue to get money coming in with all of his revenue streams seemingly coming to a halt.

However, Goci realized quickly that US 12 Bar and Grill was gaining more than just a steady cash flow again. He said when the pop-up shop started, there was a line down the block with people driving over an hour to get supplies.

Denise Jennings, living south of Ypsilanti in Whittaker, found her way to US 12 Bar and Grill with her mother to buy hand sanitizer for her and her family.

“It shows that this bar cares about the community,” Jennings said. It shows that they took time enough to find somewhere they could partner with and that they can provide for people, not just in their community. People come from all over.

“I can’t thank them enough and appreciate the fact that they are doing this.”

Working with his wife and two children, along with his brother’s family, Goci has found an equal opportunity to provide for both himself and for the community his bar is a part of.

“It’s like a war. That’s how I’m treating it,” Goci said. “People need basic supplies, you know, to stop this thing, to protect their families.”

Big Boy opens the pantry

Big Boy has opened its pantry doors and began selling items such as ice cream, soup and condiments while many people stay at home. (Photo: Courtesy of Big Boy)

One of the first eateries to open up their cupboards was Big Boy, the long-running diner famous for its Slim Jim sandwiches and annual Strawberry Festival. The Southfield-based restaurant group began offering items such as pancake mix, soups, coffee and pies for sale at some of its restaurants that remain open.

“People seem to be loving that aspect of it,” said Frank Alessandri, the company’s director of training.

Alessandri said the biggest items customers have bought include condiments such as Big Boy’s own ketchup, made locally at its Warren commissary.

Several metro Detroit Big Boys remain open selling the pantry items, as well as preparing hot food for carryout. Area company restaurants that remain open include the Livonia restaurant at 37123 Six Mile and the Southfield restaurant at 26400 Telegraph. Alessandri said other locations that are franchises, such as the Big Boy at 28340 Ford Road in Garden City, are planning to open again soon.

Blue Canary provides more than just bread

Located on 14 Mile Road in Birmingham, Blue Canary Confections is completely surrounded by a residential area, with an elementary school behind the bakery, a church across the street and houses everywhere.

In the past 14 months since she opened the bakery, Annie Dennis said she feels right at home within the Birmingham community. And now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Canary Confections rolled out another resource for the community it serves.

Blue Canary Confections is selling limited amounts of flour, eggs, milk and butter, along with normal menu items, such as bread and cookies, to help customers push off a grocery store trip. Before starting this small pantry menu two weeks ago, Dennis said she would get requests from customers on the bakery’s “note to seller” part of an online order, asking for a few eggs or some flour.

“We realized there is a need out there, there are people who are interested,” Dennis said. “Once we added it on to our offerings, it’s been super popular and it’s just another nice way to help people out a little bit.”

During a time of uncertainty for many small businesses, Dennis said it is important, not only for her bakery, but for the community, to stay open as a resource for the Birmingham community.

“It really does feel like our neighbors are actually our neighbors, not just customers,” Dennis said.

Burton Manor owner: ‘We’ve never done anything like that before’

Among the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic are banquet halls. No one knows that better than Sam Mass.

The owner of Burton Manor, 27777 Schoolcraft in Livonia, had a full banquet hall just days before the state restricted gatherings of more than a few hundred people. The hall even hosted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for an event with several hundred people hosted by the Livonia Chamber of Commerce back on March 9.

But with the hall now empty, Mass has no parties or events. Instead of trying to set up a take-out food or catering business on the fly, he’s recently decided to become a pseudo “pop-up shop” selling items that have been difficult to find in stores such as gloves and toilet paper.

The idea came to him after he saw area residents posting on Facebook that they could not locate certain items.

“We’re just trying to be an additional resource,” he said. “It’s a weird thing for me, because we’ve never done anything like that before.”

He began offering the service earlier this month and isn’t sure how long it will last, depending on demand. Those interested in purchasing items, which also includes bottles of wine and hand sanitizer, can visit the hall’s website at

Providing those items for sale, Mass said, is just one way to keep the banquet hall going during the pandemic. Mass said he knows the hall will most likely be one of the last businesses to reopen considering the nature of the coronavirus.

“It’s going to hurt for a while, I’m sure,” he said. “We just hope the community will support us and continue to try and support us.”

Big Boy Restaurant Group, LLC

Big Boy, an iconic American restaurant brand founded in 1936, is celebrating 84 years in 2020, with a continued focus of shared family experiences around food and supporting communities. Big Boy Restaurant Group, LLC is based in Southfield, Michigan. The company operates and manages franchises of Big Boy, Bob’s Big Boy and Big Boy Burgers, Shakes and Breakfast restaurants in Michigan, Ohio, California and North Dakota.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page