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.
Business is down more than 50 percent at If It Is Kitchen & Café, 104 S. Main St., but the Thai restaurant's owners refuse to let their employees go during the coronavirus scare. And there's a reason for that.
"I did not lay off anyone because we work as a family," said Khetpapol Limphoka, who owns If-It-Is with his sister, Punnada. "I want them to have money to pay their bills. We cut some hours, but we can get them more than the $275 [weekly] unemployment benefits."
Limphoka has dipped into his own "backup money" to meet payroll and other expenses, including a monthly utility bill that approaches $3,000. Now that the restaurant serves only takeout customers, Limphoka has switched off the A/C in the spacious dining room and kitchen.
"I don't want to get loans," he said. If-It-Is serves its authentic Thai menu, including fried rice dishes and curry, daily except on Tuesdays. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and on Sundays noon-10 p.m. To place an order, call 352.792.6877 or order at the counter outside the entrance. Cash or credit cards are accepted. The restaurant offers free delivery within 2 miles of downtown with a $30 minimum order (and 20-percent gratuity). GrubHub and Bite Squad also provide delivery.
Limphoka said he wants customers to know that the emphasis will always be on hospitality and the quality of the food. Although some special-order fish from Asia is no longer being shipped overseas, the If-It-Is menu includes many varieties of fresh sushi rolls and a traditional pad thai recipe made with fish sauce.
"All of our curry paste is made in-house so it's going to be fresh and more flavorful," Limphoka added.
If-It-Is also has an all-day happy hour that includes discounts on beer, sake, wine and spirits by the bottle as well as half-off hot plate appetizers and sushi-bar discounts. With CDC guidelines and county restrictions likely to remain in place for many weeks to come --- and UF closed indefinitely --- Limphoka said it could amount to "a six-month summer season" for local businesses. That's why he is urging residents to support locally-owned businesses. "Supporting local is going to make for a stronger community," said the UF graduate. "When you spend money with a local business, that money is going to stay in town." Limphoka practices what he preaches by making a point to patronize other downtown eateries, including Alpin Beer + Wine bistro, paramount grill and others in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the Limphokas had planned on welcoming their parents to Gainesville in May, but a lockdown in their native Thailand has forced them to cancel that trip. ... Now, please tell us which downtown restaurants you would like us to spotlight in this feature. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!
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.