Brookside Inn owners Kaitlyn Noffsinger and Zach Holt in front of the bar. Photo by Ryan Gaddis-Powell.

Local bar Brookside Inn Finds Positivity in the Face of a Global Pandemic

Local family-owned business Brookside Inn, located on Jefferson Pike, found positivity during a time of uncertainty in COVID-19 by updating current staff procedures, enhancing food service in the form of online ordering, and increasing their current customer pool.

For small businesses, a closed day of shop is no small feat. Everyday sales could mean the difference between closing and remaining a thriving business. So, with the COVID-19 shut down, countless businesses found themselves in a brand-new, but mostly unwanted, situation. 

It’s no surprise that the Maryland shutdown that occurred on March 16 made the community of Frederick uneasy. Local bar and restaurant Brookside Inn was no exception. However, instead of coming out on the other side still struggling to stay afloat, they were able to transform the shutdown into a source of success. 

New business owners Kaitlyn Noffsinger and Zach Holt bought the Brookside Inn back in August of 2018. They only owned the bar for a year and a half when Covid-19 occurred. “It was the last thing we ever thought would happen,” Zach Holt said. The only negative experience Brookside had during COVID-19 was the increasing level of anxiety. However, Holt said, “As far as the business is concerned, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

The positives include the increased customer pool due to the implementation of online ordering. “We needed to pivot,” Kaitlyn Noffsinger said. “When all this happened, we needed to change how we operated to best suit the business.” 

Kaitlyn added that when the pair first decided on this idea, there were a few bumps on deciding how to sell carry out and where to start to sell liquor to go. However, this soon became the major driving force for the increase of customers.

“With the shutdown people were initially hesitant to visit us,” Zach Holt said. “They started coming in for food, obviously to go, and they liked our food enough that they became regular visitors.” Zach and Kaitlyn agree together that the community support shown to the business helped phenomenally with the survival of the business. 

With such a higher volume of people coming through, the business needed to increase staff and maintain excellent quality to make sure that when the lockdown was lifted, the customers would continue to come. 

“We’ve seen a huge increase to our customer base,” Kaitlyn said. She added that even with this increase, she is still hoping to spread the name of the business to the town of Jefferson.

With an increase such as this, for a smaller family-owned business, it can be harder for them to keep up. With food sales doubling since COVID-19 began, Kaitlyn says the restaurant will start streamlining the menus currently in place to help her staff expedite food faster in order to make sure every customer has the same positive experience as the last. 

However, COVID-19 doesn’t go without its challenges. At the start of the lockdown, staff cuts happened in order to make sure the business was able to stay afloat. With staff cuts came the uncertainty of whether staff members would return after the lockdown was lifted. 

Kaitlyn says she knew some of her staff members were already coming to the end of their time working at Brookside Inn, so the loss of staff did scare her. With any business, a loss of staff could become detrimental to how you operate.

Kaitlyn wanted to make sure that everybody on her team was taken care of during Covid-19. “I think we only truly cut two staff members and they both had other means of income.” Kaitlyn stated. “That’s who we tried to focus on.” 

The biggest concern for Zach Holt was unemployment disincentivizing workers to come back. “My biggest concern with that was people realizing that it was more monetarily beneficial to just be on unemployment and stay home.” Zach says the business wouldn’t be open right now if it weren’t for the employees he kept on who decided to stay and work. 

Staff members at Brookside Inn say that the working environment is a positive one and unlike any restaurant job they’ve ever had. Sometimes in a restaurant business there is a feud between the wait staff and the kitchen workers; however, it’s noted by different workers at the Brookside that this just isn’t the case here.

Sara Kephart, cook at the Brookside Inn, said that, “Brookside is completely different from any other restaurant job I’ve had.” She went on to say, “I feel happy coming into work every day because I actually like every single one of the people I have to work with.” 

Having a staff that appreciates each other and loves where they work can completely change the way people look at the restaurant. This isn’t just a job to them, and it becomes more a sense of community. 

Looking to the horizon for the business’s future, Kaitlyn and Zach both continue to have high hopes for what they can achieve with Brookside. They look forward to reopening of the bar at full capacity rather than half. 

“I have not a single doubt that we can be successful. We have an amazing team.” Zach Holt says that he knows the Brookside Inn can continue to grow. 

By investing in the community and giving the community the best version of Brookside the owners can, then the community will invest back in them. “I think we’re going to blow it out of the water and I think we’re all gonna retire at 35.”

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