Just a few months ago, Laura Ambrose was in a staff meeting and remarked how her restaurants were in a solid position due to their close proximity to colleges throughout the state.
Now, just like nearly every small business in the country, Ms. Ambrose and her staff find themselves making contingency plans for their contingency plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the dining rooms at all seven of Woodstock’s Pizza locations have been closed and the pizzeria has shifted exclusively to take-out and delivery orders, that hasn’t stopped them from wanting to give back.
A few weeks ago, Woodstock’s launched its “Double Your Dough-Nation” campaign through GoFundMe, in which it will double every dollar donated. Operating in partnership with the Salvation Army, the restaurant will use the funds to provide free pizza to those who are sick or quarantined, as well as healthcare workers on the front lines, those who have lost their jobs and the homeless.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity because it really is a win-win-win for us,” Ms. Ambrose told the News-Press. “It provides an opportunity for the community to get involved in helping those in need and it provides food to those who need it.
“The third win is that for us, as a company, this was a great way for us to be able to match the donations that come in and also to provide something for our employees to do. They’re making lots of pizzas and salads and taking those to people in need.”
The concept for the fundraiser came from a conversation Ms. Ambrose had with a cousin, who wanted to order $1,000 worth of pizza to help the business. Since her relative doesn’t live anywhere near a Woodstock’s location, Ms. Ambrose knew there had to be another way to make an impact.
She explained that the Salvation Army was the perfect partner, in that the organization donates all the funds it receives to the people who need it most. In addition, the restaurant paired up with the group in the wake of the Montecito debris flow to feed victims and first responders.
“Honestly they’re the best ones for us to know who needs the food and (how to) get that to the right people,” Ms. Ambrose said. “They’re our partners in identifying the need, and then we’re the ones that get the food out there — or food certificates in the case of people who are food insecure right now.”
Just a week after the annual Deltopia street party saw more uniformed officers roaming Del Playa Drive than inebriated college students, Ms. Ambrose acknowledged that Isla Vista is a “ghost town” and that the restaurant is facing its most significant challenge in its 37 year history.
“This is definitely the hardest time we have ever had,” she told the News-Press.
Not only is Woodstock’s contributing food and money to those in need, the restaurant is doubling down on the funds received from the public. Some have asked why, at a time when sales have dropped below 50% of normal, they would be willing to do so, Ms. Ambrose said.
“We feel like it’s really important to still be a part of the community,” she said. “Honestly, we feel like we need to have an attitude of abundance. There are many people who don’t have jobs at all and we’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had to lay off any employees.”
In the case of the I.V. location, a number of student employees have left campus but have been told they will have their jobs when they return. The restaurant has been able to maintain enough employees to continue production.
“I think as more people start returning to Isla Vista, we’ll have a commensurate number of employees that return and help out. It all kind of ends up working out in the end — as crazy as it all is.”
Ms. Ambrose said she never thought she would see the day that college campuses would shut down. The restaurant remains on financial footing, however plans to open another restaurant will be postponed indefinitely.
“The government is coming through with some of these loan programs and those will help us survive this,” she said. “I feel really, really confident that we’ll be fine no matter how long this lasts, I guess assuming it doesn’t last through the end of the year.”
The fundraiser will continue for as long as the pandemic lasts, she added, in that the need will only increase as time goes by.
While continuing to offer take-out service, Woodstock’s has also expanded its delivery area as a way to continue serving pizza, salads and appetizers.
Those interested in donating can visit www.woodstocksiv.com, or call 805-968-6969 and staff can take a donation over the phone. In addition, those who want to donate can go to GoFundMe and search Woodstock’s Pizza or “Double Your Dough-Nation.”