Local businesses adapting, managing to stay busy for loyal customers

Katie Chick of T. DiStefano's Bakery in Mebane prepares a box of one dozen donuts for a local customers. T. DiStefano's, despite cutting back its hours, remains open, and continues to serve customers through its drive-thru window and indoor takeout. The business is currently offering a promotion where children and their parents can get a free ice cream through the drive-thru window.

Although the last few weeks have been some of the most difficult in memory for Mebane’s small business owners - particularly the town’s restauranteurs - the community continues to rally behind its many popular eateries. 

“It’s made us extremely busy - which is a blessing,” said Renea Kenyon of Kenyon’s Meat Market, which has been serving the people of Mebane since 2008 at its location along N.C. Highway 119. 

For nearly three weeks now, Kenyon’s has seen an explosion of visitors. At times, they’ve had to let people in one at a time, making sure to wipe down carts to hand to new customers as leaving ones depart. All the while, they’ve managed to maintain their wide selection of fresh meats, which comes whole from its suppliers and is hand-butchered by the Kenyon’s staff.  

“I guess the main reason (we’ve been so busy lately), most of the grocery stores, all of their meat comes in pre-packaged,” Kenyon said. “All of our meat comes in whole loans or whole chickens. We cut our own meats and put them out there fresh - no preservatives or any of that yucky stuff - so we’re able to keep it supplied.” 

“Our vendors have been awesome,” Kenyon added. “(We have had) none (issues with deliveries) whatsoever - because we have some great vendors. I can tell you that. One of them is Performance Food Group. We’ve been with them since we opened almost 12 years ago, and they’ve taken very good care of us, making sure we get a truck every day. Same with Hopkins Poultry - our chicken. They’ve been here every day as well. So it’s been really great.” 

Supplies have also not been a problem for DiStefano’s Bakery, which has served the people of Mebane along Fieldale Road, adjacent to Mebane Oaks Road, going back to 2007. 

Although owner Tom DiStefano is prepared for the possibility that local residents may eventually have to get eggs, milk, and other valuable supplies at cost from him, at the present time everything is still coming in as normal. 

“We’re still here. We will be open,” DiStefano said last week. “The supplies are still coming in - we’ve just seen a hike in prices. With the food purveyors, the price has been driven up on certain things because there’s a strain on the supply chain.

Although much of the ambience of a place like DiStefano’s is the novelty of getting to sit inside and enjoying your coffee or pastry in person, the fact that they can still provide their food via drive-thru or takeout has been critical. 

“Any day, we could go to drive-thru only,” DiStefano explained. “I know a lot of people like coming here. And it’s a thing where say if people are at home, they all want something for breakfast. For under ten dollars you can get a dozen donuts, and they all have something to eat. We’ve cut our hours of operation. We’ve cut our hours of people working. We’ve cut back, but we’re still floating. But we’re down by quite a bit.”

DiStefano’s is currently offering a special for those Mebane parents who might be looking for an excuse to get out of the house in the coming weeks.  

“If the kids are itching to get out of the house, and they want to come through the drive-thru, everyone in the car gets a free ice cream cone,” DiStefano said. 

Although the bump in customers would normally be a thing to be excited about for the ownership and staff at Kenyon’s, they know that not everyone has been able to enjoy the same success during this difficult time. Local restaurants and bars have been forced to cut back on staff and other necessities temporarily while the COVID-19 pandemic plays itself out. 

“It’s kind of bittersweet. It’s very encouraging, because we’ve always supported our community. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing, because we have a lot of businesses in Mebane - a lot of friends of ours - that we know are not doing very well right now. And that breaks our hearts,” Kenyon said. “Usually we’re really happy when we’re busy. Because it’s going to snow, or it’s a holiday. It’s exciting. But this day and time, we’re happy to provide things that people need.”

Throughout this time, Kenyon’s has attempted to keep things as normal as possible within its doors by providing the same homespun charm that has kept people coming back for years.  

“Even before this, we’re the type that we greet everybody when they walk in the door, and try to be positive and upbeat,” Kenyon said. “We know a lot of our customers by name. Of course, now we’re seeing a lot that we’ve never seen before. They appreciate that we’re only letting in so many at a time.” 

“We’re wiping down every cart - anything anybody touches. Washing our hands all the time, trying to remain clean. And just speak to our customers. We’re getting a lot of stories from them,” she added. “The hardest part is we can’t hug them. We’re huggers. I’ve had several that will just start talking and they’ll cry, and I’ll cry with them. And I have to give an air hug. We’re ready to hug again - that’s for sure.”

Both Kenyon and Lou Martinho of Martinho’s Restaurant along Clay Street were quick to thank the people of Mebane for supporting them through this difficult period in history. 

“They’ve been awesome,” Martinho said of the people of Mebane. “They’ve been helping a lot. They’ve been very supportive. I couldn’t ask for more. Everybody is struggling. Everybody has got to do their part. Just one day at a time.”

“The community, not only the kind words they’ve put on Facebook, but I can’t tell you the people that have brought us food, or told us they’re praying for us. We’ve had about us much provided for us each day, when we’re not buying it from our local restaurants to help them out. The outpouring that they’ve had for us has been amazing,” added Kenyon. 

T. DiStefano’s, Martinho’s and Kenyon’s Meat Market have long been known for their philanthropy throughout Mebane, supporting various athletic teams, charities, and other causes. They’ve continue to be excellent neighbors throughout this crisis, providing along with other Mebane restaurants free meals to first responders, Police Officers, and school officials. 

“Anything we can do to help anybody. Of course, our employees - I have to give it to them. I call them the Kenyon’s Crew. They have worked a whole lot, and no complaining whatsoever. It’s been a blessing, really,” Kenyon said. 

“I help what I can, you know. People that need the help. They’re used to going out to eat all the time, but they can’t sit down to eat now,” Martinho added. “We’re trying to keep it the same. Keep it normal. Try and normalize it. You figure if you change too much, they notice it’s a big change, right? But if you try to keep it normalized, I think it sends a message of stability. You can still go there and get the food I always get, and it won’t be changed.”