Quarantine Stories - Savanity Davis Interview

Originally published in the Prospect Park Track Club on June 3, 2020

Savanity is not only a PPTC member, but also one of the owners of The Montrose where she has hosted PPTC events, including a viewing party of the Marathon Olympic Trials in late February, one of the last club gatherings before the NYS stay at home order was called into place.

Savanity is the Digital Social Media Manager for the United Federation of Teachers as well. Her role is limited during the pandemic as she works from home: She handles inquiries from UFT members on digital platforms, interviews various departments, and shares valuable information through her “Ask Savanity” platform.

How did you make the decision to close your bar/restaurant?

My business partner, Gene, and I decided to not remain open for the safety of our staff and customers. We are not closed permanently. Although takeout and delivery has always been an option for restaurants during COVID-19, it is very difficult to survive off of an average of 2-3 deliveries per day. This would be especially challenging for us since we only began offering this service in February, a month before COVID-19 pandemic made its footprint nationwide. Looking forward, we are aware of the data connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we feel comfortable reopening a safe environment for our customers and staff. We have begun the necessary steps needed to provide safety for our staff and customers and are hoping to be open the first week of June.

How far out did you know this was a possibility? How has it impacted you?

Every small business owner has the fear of "handing in their keys" or closing their doors permanently due to COVID-19, but this cannot be a first response. There is always a small voice in the heads of these owners screaming about data and sales that are not happening due to COVID-19. Or as most have done, like The Montrose, due to no sales or income for almost three months. But this is what makes a small business owner shine: We find ways to survive. From following other restaurant owners, you can say we are stubbornly optimistic. We begin to think out of the box. Creativity is a key to survival. From our beer and food distributors to our staff to our PR team, all had to think creatively in order to survive. As I always say, we are in this together. We are all impacted. As a restaurant owner, I am seeing positive moves forward that would not have happened, if it weren't for the pandemic. You must always find the positivity among the pain, anger, and loss.

What are you up to now?

I’ve been quarantining with my family. This arrangement teaches one to see the world not only as a business owner, but as a person, a sister, a father, and a mother. This experience has allowed my business partner, Gene Gerovich, and myself to slow down the fast pace of The Montrose and reevaluate our community footprint. We have been blessed to create a community atmosphere of positive vibes and community voice.

Now, we can take this voice to another level, a family level. During our telephone planning meetings, I normally had my youngest siblings around (they are 12 & 10 years old - I am the oldest of six). I would ask them what they thought about our ideas. It was interesting to hear the kiddos’ point of view. My siblings screamed, “Why not sell hot dogs?!”

I told Gene, “The kiddos are saying to modify our menu and make it smaller, but with different types of hot dogs.”

At first I laughed, but then a glaringly bright light bulb went off in my head, launching me into a creative mode. Gene and I actually took their idea! We asked them what kinds of hot dogs they would like, which evolved into lunch boxes for kids as they continue remote learning during this pandemic. One by one the pieces came together. We created a yummy menu consisting of different kinds of hot dogs, veggie dogs & a variety of fries. We formed a partnership with a family-owned CT hot dog company to make this vision possible and had the unique idea to use Hawaiian rolls as buns, yes Hawaiian rolls! Of course we will keep some of our famous items such as our Jameson BBQ wings, our jumbo pretzel, and a couple others from The Montrose menu. Our only goal is to continue to be a community bar to a community that we love and care for, Park Slope.

Has anything positive come out of this experience?

I mentioned plenty above, but I will say the words “community and together” have been further defined within this pandemic. Competition and the race to success are now on the back burner. We at The Montrose have our logo proclaiming "a community bar.” When we were open, we always offered trivia on Wednesdays, karaoke on Thursdays, sports every day, Ladies Night on Saturdays, running club gatherings and race sponsorships, Park Slope Parents meet-up meetings for soon to be moms and of course free space for non-profit and running clubs. That is what we were before the pandemic and will be again once we are full throttle. What makes us who we are, though, is that Gene and I are ordinary small business owners that care about one thing, solidarity. We are standing with our neighbors and reaching out a hand of support. Now is the time to come together as one, as a community. The only thing that matters is that we are in this together. Keeping this mindset and staying creative, we will survive. Our community will survive.

What are your hopes for the future in regards to your personal/work life?

Personally, I am now pregnant with twins as I enter my journey as a mother. I guess you can say, I am now a part of the "COVID-19 baby boom.” Funny. I cannot wait to see the next chapters within my personal life. I cannot wait to be able to run again, because at this moment I am unable to run with the twins. So some cravings will just have to wait. Gene is the best business partner and best friend I could have. I appreciate his wife and family every day of my life. I can say that I am truly blessed to have a partnership with him. I will have to be more active on the "back office side" and not so much in the front, as I am used to. This will be a major change for me. I am a mover. I am a doer. I like to be involved and personally oversee things, but I trust in my partner as he has always trusted in me. So this time, he will take the front and I will handle all else remotely and within the digital world. But together, we will get through this.