MISSOULA — For over four months, Missoula's Staggering Ox parking lot sat empty, their tables vacant, and a sign on their door turned loyal customers away.
“It’s definitely been a tough year,” said manager Bryce Alexander.
According to the manager, the last year has been like a yo-yo, one week open, one week closed, and so on.
“We not only had to shut down over the winter, but we had two instances when the pandemic first hit of having to close, and then a couple of weeks after that, after we got back up and running, we had to shut down again,” said Alexander.
While customers could survive a few months without a clubfoot sandwich, 9-to-5 employees like Marcus Deutsch had to figure out “plan B.”
“It's not the first time it's happened to me because of COVID,” said Deutsch, “I had another job shut down and that's how I ended up here, so it was kind of...really worrying...there were several moments of doubt and uncertainty of how I was going to make it to the next paycheck.”
Co-worker Layne Pearson had his doubts too.
“I ended up quarantining four times, and then I ended up getting COVID myself and when I got COVID is when we actually shut down,” said Pearson.
The saving grace for the Staggering Ox actually sits right across the parking lot.
The owners of the Staggering Ox also own the Breakfast Club. Once the Ox shut its doors in November, each employee received an offer to work at the Breakfast Club in the meantime.
“I was never worried about my job security," said Pearson, "The people we work for, the owners, are amazing, wonderful people and I knew that they would do anything they could to keep us employed in some capacity whether that was, you know, here or at the other business that they own."
The Staggering Ox rebounded once, then they rebounded a few more times, but this week, with the plexiglass primed and ranch restocked, Staggering Ox will reopen to the public after months of uncertainty -- hopefully, it will be their last rebound.
“We’re excited to get open because we have so many families working for us and so many people depending on employment here,” said Alexander.
The Missoula Staggering Ox reopens at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
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