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Need toilet paper? Restaurants are evolving into general stores, offering eggs, meat and other grocery essentials

Consumers are turning to their neighborhood restaurants for basic pantry supplies.

For the first time in his life as a business owner, Karl Kuby Jr. sold a case of Angel Soft toilet paper. His family’s Kuby’s Sausage House and European Market in Snider Plaza has never seen anything like this in its nearly 60 years of operating: Broccoli is selling like bouquets of roses on Valentine’s Day (Kuby Jr. has never sold so much broccoli), and case after case of boneless chicken breasts disappear as fast as he can restock them.

“It feels like I’m in a bad movie,” he says with a bleak chuckle. “The grocery stores are hurting: It’s hard to get stuff stocked.” Any ground meat or version of chicken breasts is fluttering out the door in bulk packs as citizens run to fill freezers. Can Kuby’s keep this going?

“As long as I can be supplied with inventory,” he says.

Karl Kuby Jr., owner of Kuby's Sausage House and European Market, poses for a portrait behind the counter.
Karl Kuby Jr., owner of Kuby's Sausage House and European Market, poses for a portrait behind the counter.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

Each day the market’s open, the staff does a deep clean with hospital-grade disinfectant ― each person hand sanitized and gloved ― and they monitor the front door to ensure people aren’t crowding the entry. Kuby Jr. closed the restaurant side of business a couple of weeks ago, and he’s asking for patience. If the store can’t get something right away, then please understand that they’re moving as quickly as they can. For now, curbside delivery for his elderly customers and keeping the cases stocked with sausages and ground meats and chicken is their focus.

Kristi Pierce of University Park puts groceries into her cart at Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.
Kristi Pierce of University Park puts groceries into her cart at Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

Other long-standing Dallas restaurants have quick-shifted into something like a Wild West general store. Lockhart Smokehouse, which has three North Texas locations, has shelves stocked with Heinz cream of mushroom soup, ranch-style beans, grits and flour at their Plano location. Handwritten notes show the price, and toilet paper and orange juice are now sold near the smoked deviled eggs.

"It really is going back to the Kreuz Market roots,” in Lockhart, Texas, says Lockhart owner Jill Grobowsky-Bergus. “They started out as a grocery store that smoked meat on the side, so it seems everything is cyclical.”

On Friday, a photo from TJ’s Seafood Market captured a double rainbow’s crescendo ― at the exact moment of a through-the-driver-window curbside delivery. It’s a serendipitous shot when juxtaposed against a recent check-in with owner Jon Alexis.

“It has never been busier!” he writes. They’ve been making heat-at-home bulk family meals for $25 a pop. What’s selling the most right now? “Lots of salmon.”

A sign announces that only 10 customers at a time may enter Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.
A sign announces that only 10 customers at a time may enter Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

It’s like we’ve returned to B.Y.R., the time Before Yelp Reviews, the geologic era before pre-Pete Wells. In an instant, it ceased being the age of Michelin stars. It’s now the moment of survival on the corner.

Peruse the Rapscallion store-restaurant, for example, and you’ll find that they’ve been sharing “survival kits” for $150.

Whiskey Cake in Plano and Irving have been selling “Quarantine Kits” too, including a gallon of milk, 15 eggs, a pound of butter, cocktail kits, bread, beer and bundles of fresh greens. Updates to their Facebook page have time-stamped posts that sound like something you’d hear shouted through cupped hands at a general store: “2:25 p.m. if you are not already in line, we are now varying proteins.”

Lazy Dog Restaurants understands how challenging it’s been to get to the grocery store, so they’ve launched Lazy Dog Pantry, in which they’re selling a “Home Essentials Package” for $40. It includes rice, onions, carrots and toilet paper. Guests can call their local Lazy Dog or get more info at lazydogrestaurants.com/pantry.

Even Al Biernat’s is pivoting. In addition to curbside takeout and family meals, the classic steakhouse has launched a new meat market that includes locally sourced beef such as dry-aged cowboy cut rib-eye and strip steak, chicken breasts, a seafood selection ― and all include a special marinade. Al’s will also release a separate weekly list of grocery and household items that can be picked up or delivered. Call the Oak Lawn or North Dallas locations to order.

Brandon Andreason sounds calm. Ice clatters from a drink that he’s tipping back over the phone. His family-owned butcher shop on Elm Street, Rudolph’s Meat Market, has been around since 1895 and has been through two world wars, the Great Depression and the Spanish flu.

“We’ll survive this one. It’s by choice that we’re not open,” he says. They closed the shop recently to ensure the health and safety of their staff. It was a difficult but voluntary decision. He plans to reopen for the Easter rush. Whatever the situation, Andreason assures, Rudolph’s will find a way to saddle their customers with holiday lambs, roasts and hams: ”This is going to test us a little bit, but we’ve been prepped and warned from our grandfather and grandmother.”

Fresh lettuce sits on the shelves at Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.
Fresh lettuce sits on the shelves at Kuby's Sausage House and European Market.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

Nick Rallo

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