Preece and her son Hunter check out watermelons in the garden. Photo by Katie Preece
Preece and her son Hunter check out watermelons in the garden.

Losing tips and gaining a new perspective, this Mitten State worker is getting closer to her food source.

LINCOLN PARK, MI—The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for the restaurant business in Michigan, which has continued to move forward despite a widespread drop in its customer base.

The HUB Stadium in Auburn Hills , a full-service bar and restaurant with games including axe throwing, fowling, a golf simulator, and more, has faced a 50% decline in customers since reopening, a challenge that waitress Katie Preece, 33 of Lincoln Park, took personally.

Ever since the pandemic hit, Preece has also seen a sharp decline in her tips, but decided to make the most of the situation by growing more of her own food at home.

Preece has been working at The HUB for a year and a half, and has been forced to adjust like never before due to the threat of COVID.

“People get upset when we ask them to put on their mask, they don’t like that,” she said. “That cuts into our tips too.”

Despite having the ability to work as many hours as she’d like, Preece said she’s only making half the amount of tips as usual.

The lack of interpersonal communication with customers is part of the reason for the drop, she said.

Preece, a single mother of two who also helps raise her niece, is also supplementing the decline in income by focusing more on her side business Om Sesh, an on-site holistic massage therapy company.

She’s also taken it upon herself to grow more food than ever before to help support herself and her family. Preece challenged herself to grow 100% of her food by the end of the 2020 growing season.

While she didn’t quite reach that lofty goal, she did create a bounty of food for herself and her family, extending her garden into the furthest corners of her backyard to make way for watermelons, eggplant, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and several other plants that she uses to cook in homemade recipes.

While the pandemic has been tough on Preece, she’s taken the time to cultivate not just more food, but also a positive mindset and to find solutions while waiting out the end to the COVID-19 crisis.

Her advice for anyone who wants to help during these difficult times is to support small business owners in their neighborhoods during a time where Wal-Mart parking lots and fast food restaurant drive-thrus are always full, but many mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and other businesses have been struggling to stay afloat.

“It’s way more important now, more than ever,” she said. “Do your part, put your money back into small businesses in your community. Let’s keep this going!”