Mainstreet Daily News, in a collaboration with Noel Leroux, founder of Gainesville Downtown, is spotlighting downtown businesses to learn how each one is coping with the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation.
Less than a month ago, Erik Zika had his hands full as the owner of three downtown establishments: Original American Kitchen – OAKGnv, White Buffalo bar and The Range bar. Today, Zika’s only business still in operation is OAK restaurant. He closed down the two bars indefinitely because of the coronavirus scare.
“I already ran the numbers on how much money we’re going to lose, and it’s not good,” Zika said on Saturday afternoon outside OAK, 15 SE 1st Ave. “I’m just trying to stay positive because everyone else is going through the same thing.”
OAK remains open daily from noon-6 p.m. with take-out and delivery service. Beginning next Saturday, weekend hours will switch to 3-8 p.m.
“Things change daily with [COVID-19]. Everything is unpredictable, so you have to be ready to adapt,” Zika said.
OAK currently features a limited takeout menu that includes loaded burgers, sandwiches, filet mignon, short ribs and Carolina trout as well as appetizers and salads. In addition to take-out food, the eatery is offering the OAK Market where customers can buy everything from fresh produce, meats and poultry to seafood and dairy products. The list of pre-portioned, vacuum-sealed proteins available for purchase (and curbside pickup) includes coffee-rubbed rib-eye steak, New Zealand lamb chops, hickory-smoked bacon and pork bellies.
“We’re not making money because the margins are extremely low,” Zika said, “but everything is high quality.”
Customers can order from the OAK menu and from OAK Market online by going to oakgainesville.com or through the “SHOP NOW” button on the OAK’s Facebook page — or by phoning 352.283.8646. Delivery is also available through Uber Eats, Bite Squad and Postmates. OAK also has a selection of bottled liquor available for sale.
The current health scare has decimated Zika’s business. Sales have plummeted to only about $1,000 per week. More than 40 employees were let go. Zika said he and his staff are counting on government-funded programs for small businesses to help them get through these difficult times.
“We need that money to stay in the business,” he said. “If this thing continues into fall, it won’t be good.” Meanwhile, OAK is offering customers an incentive program this month. All total purchases made through pickup April 2-28 can be redeemed in May for a gift card worth 30 percent of those purchases. OAK turns five years old on April 15th.
“Our best-case scenario, from what I’ve been reading, would be coming back in the fall,” Zika said. “If it could come back sooner, all the better. I’m cautiously optimistic, but also a realist.”“
Noel Leroux is the publisher of gainesvilledowntown.com, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.