The "Walnut Family" Cafe

Dear TRENDS Diary,

Between the three Walnut Cafes, we had about $30,000 worth of food inventory. We had a meeting before that weekend they shut us down. I told everyone that regardless of what happens, we’ve got you. We’ll feed you.

Right away, we gave away all of our perishable food. The next week, we took our whole inventory and gave away what was going to expire: fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cheese and butter. We do hot meals. Employees can bring their tupperware and get food for their families or roommates.

We’ve also been getting them something special. We’ll give $25 to everybody who shows up. We got chocolate easter bunnies for their kids.

We held office hours with employees to find out what other kind of help they need. I can’t tell you how many calls we made to insurance, landlords, car companies, about payments. If we couldn’t get it deferred, we paid it.

The employees have been incredible. When we first gave out paychecks, everybody had a paycheck coming at the end of March 15, some of our employees and managers said, ‘You can keep my paycheck and give it to other people who need it more.’

We have an emergency fund for our workers that my wife, Xanthe Thomassen, and I put $25,000 in. It’s been pretty overwhelming, people sending us checks to help with employees.

We have a text stream for every store. Every single night, people are like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ We have a list of all employees phone numbers. We call to make sure they’re doing OK.

We call ourselves the Walnut family, and it really has felt that way. We’re getting through this and we’ll get through it together. You can’t isolate just because you’re isolating.

- Dana Derichsweiler, as told to Shay Castle