As a way to bring a little sunshine into an isolated world, Happy Joe’s employees treated Grand Haven residents to a pizza party of sorts on Thursday.
Pulling off what the company calls one of its “Random Acts of PIZZA,” Happy the dog helped deliver 14 sausage and pepperoni pizzas for the evening meal.
Residents of Eldridge’s retirement community have been on lockdown since Wednesday, March 18, and have been isolated in their rooms. The special meal was Happy Joe’s way of letting them know the outside world hasn’t forgotten about them.
“We usually roll out this program for a couple of weeks around Valentine’s Day,” said Happy Joe’s marketing director Kristel Whitty-Ersan, “but because of the whole situation the world is in right now, we’re trying to make a difference where we can.
“We know there are groups of people out there who need to be recognized, whether it’s people like the residents of Grand Haven or our first responders. We just want people to know that we’re thinking of them.”
The pizzas were a hit at Grand Haven, and something out of the norm.
“Having the pizzas delivered was a nice break for us, and a nice break for the residents,” said Jennifer Maas, Grand Haven’s activity director. “Residents still had their fruit and salad, but the pizza was a nice treat.”
The pizzas were baked just a block away by Alaina Woods, who then hopped into the Happy the Dog costume to deliver them. Because the facility is on lockdown, Maas and employee Masie Knutsen met Happy at the front door and took the pizzas inside.
The pizzas were kept warm in the oven while they were being delivered.
“We had a couple girls go around and take drink orders, and then we came along with the food,” said Maas. “The residents were excited when we told them Happy Joe’s had brought pizza, and each resident got one or two pieces.
“We kept them warm in the oven, and when a box got empty we went back to the kitchen and got another one so that they were served nice and hot.”
Maas was appreciative of the generosity and thoughtfulness shown by Happy Joe’s.
“It was so super nice of them to do what they did,” she said. “Everybody loved it.”
“We just wanted to bring a little happiness into the lives of the residents and staff,” said John Vance, Happy Joe’s director of purchasing. “Because we are running a little lean on staff because of the dining room shutdown, a few of us from the corporate office came over to make sure there were enough hands to get it done.
“We want to do what we can, in whatever capacity we can, to try and help out and serve the community. It’s an expense, but you know, considering what everyone else is doing to help get through this, it’s an expense we’re glad to absorb, and hopefully alleviate some stress.”
Looking for opportunities
Happy Joe’s has made similar deliveries to hospitals, and is looking for other opportunities to show its appreciation to volunteers and businesses that are having to cope in these unusual times.
“This is just our way of recognizing some people that might not get recognized,” said Whitty-Ersan. “We’re working on ways to deliver pizza to other heroes in town, and we just want people to know we’re thinking of them.”
She also echoed Vance in saying that the company wants to pull out all the stops to help customers get through the pandemic that has gripped the country.
“Everyone is looking for what they can do,” she said, “and we’re one of the fortunate businesses that have been deemed an essential business that gets to stay open for carryout and delivery services for the community.
“We are taking that very seriously, and we’re trying to make sure we are here to do our part. Everybody is trying to do their best, and people are trying to avoid getting out to grocery stores and some of the places that are really populated.
“Our grocery stores are doing a phenomenal job,” she continued, “but if they are really busy, some people might want to consider us and other restaurants as a carryout or delivery option.”
Last week, Happy Joe’s initiated a new marketing campaign, and is offering 25 percent off on all pizzas. The company has also streamlined and made safer its pickup and delivery service.
“Pickup and delivery is what we do, and we have a great infrastructure for that,” said Whitty-Ersan. “We are very fortunate to be able to do that, and we have great team members who are all taking things very seriously.
“We have low-contact deliveries. We can drop off food at doors, and if there’s anything that has special instructions, we do whatever we can to make sure that delivery is delivered safe.”
All delivery drivers wear gloves, and change them between customers. She said the company also strictly adheres to all CDC guidelines.
“We’ve seen a little uptick in our drive-through business,” said Vance, “and we are actually trying to do something specifically to improve that experience and make things more comfortable for our customers.
“We’re trying to go to an almost no-contact pickup in front of the store, so all a customer has to do is pull up, call and tell us their name, and we’ll bring their order to their car. They won’t have to worry about handling cash or anything else back at the drive-through.”
Both Vance and Whitty-Ersan said dealing with the pandemic has been challenging, but that the company is determined to continue serving the public.
“It’s frustrating, but we’re taking it day-by-day as well as we can,” said Vance. “We have meetings twice a day, and are constantly checking with the government and the CDC.
“Hopefully we’ll get through this sooner rather than later, and all of us can get back to our lives as we knew them before this craziness happened.”
“We’re thankful to be helping where we can,” said Whitty-Ersan. “Obviously, we want our people to be able to keep their jobs, also stay safe.
“We want everybody to be in this together. We’re looking for all the things we can do, and we also want to support all the other businesses that are open. We are here for the community as best as we can be.”