As the co-owner of Munch in Solon, Jamie Hersch said she had her eye on capturing a plum corporate catering account: Swagelok.
In March, Hersch gave a presentation at Solon’s largest employer. It went smoothly and she was looking forward to picking up business.
Five days later, she was at Jackson Field in the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation in Moreland Hills having just taken her Labradoodle for a walk and glanced at her cell phone. Ohio was shutting down after the first cases of COVID-19 surfaced in the state.
“Everything just like stopped for me,” she said. “I was nervous. I didn’t know what we were going to do.”
Hersch, with her husband and Munch co-owner Scott Hersch, later made two difficult phone calls to the families of their two employees to break the bad news. They laid off their employees, two young adults who had been recommended by Heidi Solomon, coordinator of Horwitz YouthAbility of Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland.
In-store dining dried up and Scott Hersch decided to apply for unemployment. Meanwhile, Jamie held out hope the economy would turn. In May, she filed her unemployment claim and began collecting in June.
Munch cut hours, began curbside delivery and benefited from Medworks Cleveland, which ordered meals for health care workers at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood and MetroHealth’s main campus in Cleveland. Customers came forward to pay for meals for health care workers as well, and tipped up to 100% of the cost of their orders.
“People just came in to support us, check on us,” Scott said. “It feels so good that people around you are willing to help.”
At one point, Jamie delivered a curbside meal to a customer and noticed he didn’t look well. He told her he and his family had COVID-19. After that, Munch made curbside deliveries to the trunk. In addition, the restaurant installed Plexiglass dividers that are mounted into the counter.
By June, customers began getting fatigued, and MedWorks had shifted its focus from supporting restaurants and health care workers to bolstering grocery stores in food deserts. Business was slow.
“Our lease is up, but we’re in a pickle because we haven’t been able to show income in the past year to make a bank loan to make a proper move,” Scott said.
He would like to expand; she would like to pare down, moving to what she called “micro Munch,” with a simplified, smaller menu.
The Solon residents have two children, Simon, 16, and Ruthie, 15, who attend Orange High School in Pepper Pike and celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at Masada in Israel. The couple said they have a mortgage on their home, too.
They were hoping to pass Scott’s 2013 Ford Escape to Simon, and buy a new car for Scott. That didn’t happen, and prior to Chanukah, they told their children things were going to be different this year.
They’re both confident that Munch will remain open.
“This week, Christmas holidays were pretty good,” Scott said. “People have been doing more catering.”
Since June, most weeks only have a couple good days, they said.
“Because we’re small, we can adapt … but everything’s an adaptation,” Scott Hersch said. “It’s just about finding the right location we can operate in and having the funding to do it the right way.”
Munch is at 28500 Miles Road, Suite J. and can be reached at 216-231-0922. Visit them online at munchasimplekitchen.com or on Facebook. Hours are weekdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.