ORLANDO, Fla. — Eateries all over Central Florida have shut down due to the pandemic, and weathering this kind of storm is not easy. Even the most established restaurants are barely hanging on.
But with just a Facebook post, High Tide Harry’s in Orlando may have turned the tables on the pandemic.
Mike Heretick doesn’t consider himself king of the crab, but by looking at some of the restaurant reviews, there are plenty of people in Orlando who think he is.
Heretick’s story began 25 years ago, and still, he mops the floors, cleans the bathrooms and tastes the soups every morning to make sure everything is just right.
But in March, he, like many other restaurant owners, had no idea what to do.
He went from decades of working 100 hours a week to being shut down.
“There’s no playbook for this,” Heretick said.
March usually is the restaurant’s most profitable month of the year. But instead of a stellar month, COVID-19 had him taking a $100,000 hit.
In response, he used his rainy day fund and kept paying his employees. Then a paycheck protection program loan came.
Not only did he continue to pay all 70 of his employees, but he gave them a raise to help them get by.
Eight months later, he still has all his employees.
“These people all have families,” Heretick said. “We are a family here at High Tide Harry’s.”
Slowly, the state allowed businesses to reopen and now the restaurant is operating at just 50% capacity, which means he is taking losses every month.
In November, almost a year after the pandemic began, he lost about $40,000 because tourists aren’t coming.
Heretick’s son, Brennan Heretick, has never really known a life without High Tide Harry’s.
He’s also never known his father to be worried until now.
So Brennan Heretick did something his dad wouldn’t know how to: he took to Facebook. He didn’t do it for pity, but for community support.
“He still hasn’t take a salary since March. But, the managers are being paid, our employees are being paid, and he wakes up every morning with his life savings on the line,” he wrote on Facebook.
The post has more than 1,000 likes and as many shares.
Mike Heretick doesn’t know much about how to do social media, but he knows what it does. It turned the page on High Tide Harry’s story.
A week after the post, the restaurant had its most profitable four-day stretch ever.
“It was incredible. Just the outpouring. People are good. People are basically good and they want to help people,” Mike Heretick said.
He doesn’t know what the next week will bring or even what’s in store for 2021. But what he does know is that he will still be serving up seafood for whoever wants it.
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