Of all things in San Francisco, a Southern connection was beginning to brew in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood. After New Orleans native Arienne Landry founded Just For You Cafe in 1990, Georgia-born Reid Hannula began falling in love with the eatery’s cozy feel. It felt so much like home that Reid asked Landry for a job: The regular customer slowly adjusting to Bay Area life became Just For You’s general manager.
“Before the Food Network — and kind of the glamorization of cheffing — it still is kind of a grunt job. Most of it involved creativity, and that’s why you do it. So we bonded over that,” said Hannula.
After working under Landry’s tutelage for years, Hannula bought the restaurant from her once she retired. He’s worked hard to not lose sight of her vision, limiting the restaurant’s garnishings and locally sourcing all meats from four different vendors in SF. Foodies rave about the hangover-curing Hangtown Fry — a breakfast plate loaded with bacon, eggs, oysters, and onions — as well as their shrimp and grits. The beignets also earn praise, giving customers another reason to return for a quick trip or full dining experience.
Despite COVID-19 causing chaos in San Francisco and beyond, Hannula and staff have surprisingly kept Just For You intact by embracing change on all fronts. This spring, Hannula forged a partnership with Uber Eats to maximize his reach. Pivoting to a primary focus on takeout orders has also made it possible to serve Dogpatch residents with serious cases of FOMO (Fear of missing out) and cabin fever. Plus, the cafe has even installed plexiglass countertops to improve public safety measures for everyone inside.
Even more impressive is the fact Hannula is finding unconventional ways to support his staff. The owner started a GoFundMe page on March 19, raising over $14,000 for Just For You employees. Considering some workers have been with the cafe for nearly two decades, this move provides Hannula and staff with necessary financial wiggle room as the cafe weathers this crisis.
On top of that, Just For You recently received PPP funding after placing a request in the federal government’s second wave of applications. But the process wasn’t as rosy as Hannula’s other efforts.
“So I was, you know, I was very aggressive about getting somebody, and my banker, and getting things going…and they ran out of money the first go-around. As I saw that they were releasing the second go-around, I was pressing the button on my banker,” said Hannula.
“Here, there’s another local bank in California only. And he got it done for me. I was one of the first ones to get to the bank there. I was lucky because a lot of the people that had a Wells Fargo or some of the larger banks here in the city got very overwhelmed because they just have a larger base of customers…so I got a little bit lucky.”
With his PPP funds, Hannula is required to spend all received monies on the payroll. Although his GoFundMe is supporting some of the cafe’s employees’ wages, the owner claims it’s creating additional accounting issues. He remains uncertain about how to track servers’ gratuities and whether or not his loan will be forgiven. And because his PPP loans are required to be paid back, Hannula took out a second loan in case future plans go awry.
Like many others, these economic uncertainties are arriving at the most inconvenient time. Hannula’s son Zeke, who currently works as a manager for Just For You, was slated to lead the cafe’s expansion efforts to San Diego until their lease was postponed due to COVID-19. An enthralling next episode for a man who has followed in his father’s footsteps is now on hold, and the patience of the family duo will be tested.
Yet the family is feeling right at home when it matters most. And for Reid, that means everything.
“I mean, we have people pop in their head and make sure we’re okay. And then we had that day—that Monday—where a couple of the full-time servers are here and two separate tables tipped five hundred dollars on top of their twenty dollar tab to make sure the staff was okay,” said Hannula.
As all local businesses look to rebound from the disastrous financial toll that COVID-19 has taken, Hannula is quick to practice the same unity that’s helped Just For You. He visited his neighborhood barber and pre-purchased four hundred dollars worth of haircuts.
“Now, you know, we’re all kind of reaching out for each other. And that’s what I love about it. It’s just been a joy to be here after being transplanted for so long.”