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'We're open': Martino's keeps employees on the job despite uncertainty ahead

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Posted at 7:45 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 20:46:28-04

MILWAUKEE — Are you looking to get your Chicago hot dog and Italian beef fix during the state's "Safer at Home" order? TMJ4 News is committed to highlighting local and essential businesses that need your help.

At Martino's Italian Beef on 13th and Layton, a large sign on the front entrance reminds customers they're still open for carryout and parking lot pick-up. The owners said they're leaning on 40-plus years of regular customers to keep employees on the job.

Inside Martino's, the dining area is empty, but that doesn't mean employees or customers are staying away.

"Their food is fantastic," said Mike Rondone. "I see no reason why I can't come in."

Rondone stopped by for his favorite Italian beef Monday after work to support service industry workers who are reeling from the statewide stay-at-home order.

"It makes me feel bad," Rondone said. "Everybody's in trouble right now."

Owner T.J. Anderson said the past week had brought more challenges than he ever imagined, including a 50% drop in sales.

"It's absolutely half," he said. "Some days, it's less than half."

Anderson's top priority is keeping paychecks coming for his staff despite the uncertainty ahead.

"Even if I lay them off and they go collect unemployment, it's not going to be enough for them," he explained. "It's just not."

Anderson was able to keep most of his employees on the job by having them work shorter shifts and more days during the week.

"I can give you almost the same amount of hours, but it's going to be over 6 days instead of 5 days and the bulk of them said, 'we're in,'" Anderson said.

Fewer customers also calls for more creativity. Anderson started selling hot and cold meal packages for families stick at home.

"When you take them home, you just have to heat up the hot dogs, which we'll tell you how to do, which is not really hard," he said.

Loyal customers are keeping Anderson's business afloat, but he said the whole community needs to keep small businesses in mind during these trying times.

"Staying at home is a great idea, but you still have to go out for groceries, you still have to go out for gas," said Anderson. "It's when you do those trips, you can go out to your local establishment."

Martino's is open 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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