College Park Mayor encourages residents to support local restaurants amid pandemic

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn and his husband Dave Kolesar eat vegetable lo mein, Singapore mai fun and Shanghai spring rolls from Ivy Noodles. Wojahn and Kolesar have been supporting small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic by ordering takeout from local restaurants. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Wojahn)

By Anaya Truss-Williams
For The Diamondback

From Kangnam BBQ’s spicy soft tofu seafood stew to Ledo Restaurant’s lemon pepper chicken with sautéed spinach, local restaurants offer endless possibilities for College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn.

But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on local businesses across the country, Wojahn and his husband Dave Kolesar have taken supporting local College Park restaurants into their own hands.

At least three nights a week, Wojahn and Kolesar get carryout from restaurants in the area, posting images of their meals to Instagram and Twitter.

“There’s so many good restaurants in College Park,” Wojahn said. He and his husband advertise their takeout habits on social media to encourage residents to participate in supporting local businesses as well, he said.

Eric Shin, the founder and owner of SEOULSPICE, said he thinks Wojahn’s efforts are incredibly important.

If local businesses are to get back on their feet, Shin said, they’ll need the support from people currently at home — including politicians like Wojahn.

[Read more: College Park Council deliberates how to best serve local businesses amid COVID-19]

“For the mayor to go out of his way and to actively support all the small businesses, as a small business owner, that means the world,” Shin said. “It speaks volumes to his thoughtfulness.”

Shin said he made changes to his business in early March in light of the pandemic, such as offering curbside pickup orders through the company’s website and conducting many orders through third-party apps, including Uber Eats.

Adam Greenberg, the co-owner of Potomac Pizza, Bagels ‘n Grinds and College Park Grill, said the three businesses have had to make adjustments as well: reducing staff and implementing no-contact delivery and pickup at Potomac Pizza.

Despite support from the local community, Greenberg said the businesses have seen a decline in sales, including orders made on third-party apps, he said.

“It’s been challenging,” Greenberg said of the situation. “Potomac Pizza and Bagels ‘n Grinds are in a hotel that is closed, in a college town that doesn’t have any students or teachers or employees.”

[Read more: Small businesses in College Park struggle through coronavirus pandemic]

Wojahn echoed Greenberg’s concerns about the lack of customers, saying that College Park businesses have been “devastated,” not just by the suspension of in-person dining, but by the fact that many University of Maryland students — who drive much of the business in the city — are no longer in the area.

But Wojahn is leaving no stone unturned in his endeavors to support local businesses.

“We’ve been to just about all of the restaurants in College Park at one time or another, but I try to really share the love and spread it out,” Wojahn said of their efforts. “We actually haven’t repeated any restaurants.”

Wojahn said he wants to see as many College Park restaurants survive the pandemic as possible, a goal shared by business owners like Shin.

“As a person that likes to go out and eat, and wants to support fellow businesses, I would suggest [to] everyone, if there’s a restaurant you really like, that you’re looking forward to going back to, support them now,” Shin said. “They really need it.”

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