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'Butter Churn' persevering through the pandemic

Beloved local eatery adjusting to the new normal
Local restaurants looking to hire
Posted at 6:50 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 18:44:07-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Butter Churn in Aransas Pass now is fully open, but it wasn't an easy task.

The pandemic has brought a wide array of challenges for the restaurant industry, and 'Butter Churn' has not been excluded from the effects.

'Butter Churn' started off as a mom and pop shop in Sinton with four employees, but now they have a location in Aransas Pass as well.

“You come in here and it’s just home cooking. We want it to be a warm, family environment, a safe environment,” Mark Kenne, the General Manager of the Aransas Pass store said.

However, because the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine, Butter Churn was forced to resort to take-out and delivery options.

“We’re not a to-go restaurant or a delivery restaurant and trying to change gears to learn to do that was a difficult process,” Kenne said.

But past experience helped.

“We actually learned a lot through Hurricane Harvey to keep our employees on so that way when we reopened people were ready to go back to work,” Kenne said.

Kenne said only about 100 customers were ordering takeout during quarantine, but pre-pandemic, they were getting around 1000 everyday, even people coming from as far as Dallas. Now their numbers are up to around 700 customers a day.

Kenne said they lost about 10 employees after they reopened. He thinks stimulus and unemployment checks may be influencing that outcome.

Having a smaller staff has put a little bit more pressure on the workers at Butter Churn in regards to their work schedule and the amount of work they have to put in.

“We have our days where we’re super busy and we have to have two sections or we’ll divide the sections and sometimes we all work together,” Michelle Perez, a waitress at the restaurant said.

The store has also had to face difficulty in getting masks and gloves for the employees because there is such a high demand for them right now. In turn, they’ve had to raise prices on food, but that isn’t stopping some regular customers from coming in, customers like Sam McCleese who said he’s been coming into the Sinton store since it opened 25 years ago.

“We want to see the community thrive and this is the way you do it. You get out and support one another,” McCleese said.

He said he enjoys the food, all of it, and seeing others in his community succeed makes him happy.

Kenne said they don’t throw away much of the food because they add the unused food to meals. For instance, if they didn’t use all of the brisket they served one day, they’ll make a brisket lasagna to serve the next day.

When it comes to the safety of his staff, Kenne said it’s important to keep them healthy, so he got a local hospital to give the first round of Moderna shots to the staff. They will be getting their next shot on April 19.

“We're one big family and all my people that work here truly believe that. What I mean by that…you come to work together…you all leave together…and with all that we stayed healthy,” Kenne said.

The restaurant earned April's 'Member of the Month' from the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce posted the honor on their Facebook, saying "The Kenne’s treat their employees like family and whole-heartedly support the community they reside in."

Kenne said the chamber acknowledgment is one of the things that helps him along during bad days.

"It's a great honor," he said. "I take it very personal that they took the time to honor us in that way. It's been a rough year and to have that honor gives us a boost of...to get out and keep fighting the good fight so to speak."