See our shout out for Daily Good Deeds on our Shreveport DDA Facebook Page. Every day brings a new deed to celebrate as we make it through COVID-19. Please ‘Like’ our page to keep up with things happening downtown and sign up for our weekly DDA eBlast.
On March 26, the Downtown Development Authority kicked off a Daily Good Deeds project to share some of the stories of the small acts of kindness, generosity and selflessness we are seeing downtown on a daily basis. Though things are very different downtown right now- many people are telecommuting, attractions and businesses are shuttered, social distancing is the norm- there are still people who love, support and call downtown their own and we’re happy that will not change.
Our first daily Good Deed has to do with the wonderfully magical healing powers of a pot of coffee. I hope you enjoy.
Over the last 10 years, downtown has seen a resurgence in small restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and attractions. Most of these venues have been closed by the governor’s emergency order, but some restaurants have remained open and are struggling; trying to adapt to takeout/delivery. The owners and managers are working harder, making less money and having to make daily gut-wrenching decisions on which employees stay, and which go. Each day brings a new closure because the downtown employees that once supported these restaurants are now working from home or sheltering in place. It is a time when the restaurants are at their competitive sharpest, appealing to remaining customers with every good deal, offer and option they can come up with. Prices have been cut, new delivery options are being offered, tasty new specials are being created, anything that can be done to get people to call in and take out is being tried.
In the middle of all this industry chaos, Kristi Tift, the chef and co-owner of Retro Down Town Café, began reaching out to competitors to share a carafe of ‘we are all in this together’. Early this week, she sent a runner to Parish Taceaux, another of our downtown restaurants, with an airpot filled with one of her delicious specialty coffees. Parish Taceaux manager Beaux Hayes and Front of House Manager Tasha Smith were surprised and taken aback but touched at the unexpected gesture; Hayes called Tift back to offer some tacos in return. Tift’s gesture was a small good deed, but one that meant a lot to Parish Taceaux, another restaurant struggling with the same issues as all the others.
Tift has had a lot of experience with hard luck and bad timing. When she opened her first coffee shop, the Retro 521 Café in Bossier’s East Bank District, the city had just launched a giant road construction project through the district which effectively shut down her business. She remembers the day the construction started- two days after delivery of her $7,000 expresso machine. “It was crickets,” she told me. “I heard crickets. I had coffee, though, so I started taking airpots of coffee and setting them up outside for the construction workers. I left a note, ‘Free coffee. Fill up and hurry up!’” She laughs when she remembers how quickly their 32-oz cups would drain the pot. After a while, she started doing cakes and cookies and the construction crews asked her to add sandwiches and lunch items. They went from free coffee to paying customers, helping her keep her business afloat during a difficult 18 months.
Another of her businesses, the Destiny Day Spa, was not as lucky. It was doing well, located at the Boardwalk in Bossier. Red River floods in 2015 and 2016 convinced customers that the Boardwalk was under water (it was not), and her customers went elsewhere, forcing her to shut down and move the business. “I understand economic downturn.” says Tift. “That’s why it makes me happy to give. There is a commonality of understanding in this. EVERYONE is experiencing it.” Tift laughs when she talks about her ‘hunter/gatherer’
instincts. She is also a fighter. She is fighting now to stay open, pay her employees, pay her bills. She is doing sweat equity barter to pay her rent; she is rolling out bicycle and other types of delivery to expand her reach. Her whole method of purchasing food has changed overnight; she is now making trips to multiple stores to find the meat and other products she needs and is working other jobs to make additional money. How then does she have the time and energy to think about others? “Doing a good deed keeps me motivated,” she tells me. “It would be easy to become nasty in these times and blame others.”
That is not in Tift’s nature. In fact, she has begun reflecting on some of the good created in the crisis, a newfound gratefulness she has for items and people, and for the slower pace that is allowing us to take the time to stop, speak, and get to know someone. “Life is about the here and now,” she says. “We need to take advantage of that while we can.”
She will deal with COVID-19 by doing what she always does; shop, prepare, cook, and clean. She will organize a little more, experiment with new recipes, watch more reruns of Criminal Minds, and repurpose more furniture. Above all, she will continue to reach out to businesses downtown with her small caffeinated airpots of love and support. Tift’s Downtown Good Deed is one of many, and these are the stories we are eager to share and that now, more than ever, we need to hear.
(Note- On the day I was writing this story, the doorbell rang at the DDA office. At the door was a runner from Retro Down Town Café with an airpot of Southern Pecan coffee. Love never tasted so good. At the same time, I got a call from Beaux Hayes telling me that they are closing after lunch on Friday, March 27. Beaux says Parish Taceaux WILL reopen when the crisis is over.)