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Mount Gretna’s iconic eatery struggled to get by with all the pandemic-related restrictions of 2020.
But with Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 guidelines set to be relaxed this Memorial Day weekend, the Jigger Shop is poised for a big comeback.
“We’re just hoping to get back to normal,” Kyle Seyfert, whose family purchased the Jigger Shop from longtime owner Chuck Allwein in 2018, said Tuesday.
“We were happy to hear that the Gretna Theatre is going to have shows this year. And it sounds like the art show is on,” Seyfert added. “That’s all good news to us. We’re looking forward to an exciting year.”
The Jigger Shop reopens for weekend business this Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16 and again on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23. Hours of operation this year will be noon to 9 p.m.
After a three-day Memorial Day weekend — the same hours on Saturday, May 29, through Monday, May 31 — the eatery and ice cream parlor will be open Tuesdays through Sundays through the end of the season, which is Labor Day weekend, followed by weekends through September.
Last year, COVID restrictions put a strain on the Jigger Shop and other food services.
“It was very hard on the business,” Seyfert said. “We did about 50 percent (of our usual business) for the whole season. It was rough.”
The eatery opened a few weeks later than usual because of the pandemic, he said, and operated on reduced hours.
“Everything was changing almost weekly,” he recalled. “When we opened, we had no indoor dining. You could come in, get your ice cream, and be on your way.”
As the year progressed and restrictions loosened a bit, they were able to open their deck for sit-down dining, and eventually the indoor dining room as well. But even so, they had limits to how much business they could do.
By the end of the 2020 season, customers still had to be seated at least six feet apart, which reduced the Jigger Shop’s capacity by 25 to 50 percent, Seyfert said. Everyone had to wear masks, he said, and the restaurant could only serve on disposable to-go containers.
“A few items weren’t compatible with takeout containers,” he said. “Like some of our flambes, which we set on fire. Our Baked Alaska, for instance. We couldn’t do those. And the frosted mugs especially — that was a big disappointment last year, not having those.”
Some of the restrictions will still be in place for the opening weekends, Seyfert noted. But by Memorial Day weekend, he said, the Jigger Shop will be operating at full capacity, with its complete menu back in place and regular serving dishes back in rotation.
He expects it might be a while, however, before business is usual.
“I think it will still take some time,” he said. “I don’t blame them, people are erring on the side of caution.”
The Jigger Shop also will be operating with a full staff again this year.
“Most of our employees are students, and they’re all eager to come back for work,” Seyfert said.
He said 2020 was hard on the business, but he is optimistic about the coming year.
“As far as the public sees, there shouldn’t be any difference, but last year put a large strain on us,” he said. “We were only in the business for a few years, as the new owners, and it did knock us back a bit. But if things continue to open up, I think we’ll be OK.”
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