The case of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, a suburb north of Orlando in Seminole County has brought unexpected repercussions to Sanford’s local businesses and restaurants.
“I feel guilty about what happened in our town. People say we’re sorry you’re from Sanford. We are nice people here in this town, it’s just the town that this happened in,” said Mr. Theo Hollerbach of Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe over the phone. “We’re proud to be from Sanford ever since our opening in 2001, the people of our town are good people.”
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, a popular restaurant serving authentic German food in Sanford’s Historic Downtown district, has a “Proud to be in Sanford” motto on all of their t-shirts and gear. Mr. Theo Hollerbach, a long time resident of Sanford, worked and trained at Le Cordon Bleu restaurant in Winter Park next to the old Harper’s Tavern under the tutelage of Chef George Vogelbacher (now of Winter Park Fish Company).
On Tuesday, Mr. Hollerbach posted on the restaurant’s facebook page that the Trayvon Martin case has caused the Willow Tree to cut hours from staff because people are afraid to come to Sanford. According to their posting, business is down over $10,000 in sales last week, that is $1500 Tips for their servers, or 250 hours that had to be cut from the weekly schedule, resulting in 74 people getting a smaller paycheck because of how the media describes the town of Sanford.
Theo Hollerbach on Facebook posted that “The demonstrators are coming here to help a cause, they want to make our world a better place, they are peaceful and kind only problem from my end is they don’t want to spend money in our town. this punishes good people who work hard and also want to make the world a better place.Bottomline Sanford still deserves your business we are good people who care about our neighbors and our community. Thanks for listening.”
Photo Credit: CFNews 13
As a result of media attention, patrons have been cancelling reservations because of concerns for parking and dangers they feel might happen from large groups of protesters.
Janet Zeak, who works at the Willow Tree Cafe, said that a similar occurrence happened when the riverfront flooded a few years ago. The news media made it seem like the entire area was flooded but in reality, the downtown area was high and dry. “We are antique shops, bookstores, bars, and restaurants all locally owned, we’re the little guys who are being affected,” she said.
Since the facebook posting, there has been an unexpected and sudden outpouring of support from local fans of Willow Tree Cafe. Fans from all over have started to come back and things are looking better for the restaurant; Mr. Hollerbach had to add hours last night for his staff and expects to do the same tonight.
He hopes the trend will continue for the local businesses of Sanford.
The restaurant describes itself as a German Oktoberfest beer hall from the 80s with great home cooked meals, bands, beer stands, schnitzels, and people all around are smiling. “It’s a place where life is good,” said Mr. Hollerbach.
For more information:
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café
205 E 1st St
Sanford, FL 32771
Downtown Sanford Area Restaurants: http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/nr/26/301695