‘I’m trying to stay positive’: Knoxville family-run pizzeria feels COVID-19 impacts


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As many local restaurants make changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, employees are losing jobs because business is slow.

The hard decisions come from managers, owners and sometimes, friends or family who must decide how to move forward amidst closed dining rooms transitioning to take-out or delivery only.

One local family business, Gavino’s Pizzeria and Restaurant is among those making the hard decisions. The staff among the family’s two locations in Bearden and Turkey Creek are “family.”

“It is my family. I have let go some of my best friends because we couldn’t afford to have them here,” said Jacquelyn Bibby, Manager at Gavino’s.

Bibby’s parents own the two Italian restaurants in Knoxville and the last few weeks have been difficult for the entire family, she says. They’ve owned the businesses for nearly six years.

“I’m trying to stay positive. my parents and I two weeks ago were talking about retirement and now we’re talking about keeping this place up.”

Jacquelyn Bibby, Manager at Gavino’s Pizzeria and Restaurant

Since the restaurants closed the dining rooms, moving to take-out and delivery only, Bibby says they’ve seen business drop 70%.

Regular lunch time sales would near $1,000, and now amid the coronavirus pandemic, they’re closer to $200.

Bibby says, numbers aside, it’s the team between their Gavino’s restaurants that she is most worried about.

“Every person that calls. I appreciate it. I really do want to make everything perfect for them, make sure that they do know we care for them,” said Bibby.

Bibby and her fiancée, Felicia, both work at the Bearden location. In fact, lately, they’ve been the remaining employees “working all jobs” as needed, according to Bibby.

Next month, the two were set to get married in Knoxville. The wedding is now postponed. It’s another change the family is looking to tackle, together.

“That was also very difficult to take, we have a lot of support and that is also really great,” said Bibby.

Gavino’s is offering take-out alcohol options, with purchase, as a way to bring in more business. They’re hopeful that regular customers and new ones will choose their family-run business for a meal.

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