NORFOLK, Va. - Imagine owning a restaurant and seeing your customer base disappear practically overnight.
That's what happened last year to restaurants and cafes that make their money serving lunch to office workers...when COVID-19 forced the home to become the office.
In Downtown Norfolk, it's the common thread for a lot of businesses.
The Stockpot Norfolk is the restaurant's second location following the first at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. General Manager Amber Kostka says the spot was chosen with the built-in customer base in mind.
After the pandemic hit, Kostka and her staff had to reinvent the business a bit; a move that brought in new customers, allowing The Stockpot to survive. Now she says things feel like normal again.
"We've been able to maintain that (new) clientele and now we're seeing our "bread-and-butter" people come back," said Kostka, who tells News 3 that office workers began returning "about a month ago."
The numbers are still growing, she says.
A couple blocks away inside World Trade Center on Main Street, Cafe Crema is loving its new location after spending years inside Dominion Tower, the city's tallest office building.
Owners Angela and Marilyn Tagert say they moved four weeks ago to a space that's larger, in a building that has more people.
"It's so friendly and warm and the people have been so friendly and welcoming and 'welcome to the building, I'm glad you're here, this is great' and the word of mouth has caught on and the building knows we're here and we're keeping busy," said Marilyn, who runs the front of house while her daughter, Angela, makes her menu from scratch in the kitchen.
Unlike The Stockpot Norfolk, Cafe Crema doesn't have a storefront visible from the street and relies almost entirely on support from the offices inside the World Trade Center.
Tagert tells News 3 she's expecting the building to be at full capacity again in September.