Navigating the Pandemic: Thoughts from Kim Waller

Greetings Readers and great news! Tourism Board member Amanda Littrell is at it again in her efforts to engage small business owners around Trinidad to discuss their thoughts and experiences regarding the pandemic (See last week’s blog for her conversation with Colie’s owner Nicole Paradisa!). This week, she talked with Kim Waller, the manager of Nana and Nano’s, who runs the restaurant alongside her mom, the owner and talented cook behind their tasty recipes; their conversation is below! Enjoy, and stay tuned for more news and insights from our community! Note: Content has been edited for clarity. 

Q: What do you think has been the toughest decision or change in your business during this pandemic? 

“Initially, everything was incredibly surreal. The toughest decision was having to reduce hours and lay off employees. Next, was how to keep my mom, my employees, my customers, and myself safe. One big challenge was keeping my mom in the kitchen so she maintained a proper social distance, which as we know, is an incredibly difficult concept for older Italians, in general. After creating a plan to best keep them out of harm’s way, we had to determine how we were going to survive financially. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. After the first week, due to stay-at-home orders, the deli was thriving. People needed food to prepare at home, and sandwiches were an easy meal. So, for the first time, I focused on promoting the deli rather than the restaurant.”

Q: Who and/or what have been your biggest guides or sources of help through this?

“My biggest guide was Aaron Chavez from the LAC/Huerfano Health Department. I called him weekly asking questions and reviewing plans. I utilized their Facebook page for documents and updated info. I read info from the CPR and Live Science websites to stay updated on state issues. I turned the tv news off after 2 weeks and relied on factual rather than biased information. My mom and I discussed the situation nightly, and I asked the employees for suggestions. This was and still is a new situation and time for all of us, so I value their opinion. We wouldn’t have remained open if not for the dedication of the employees who showed up daily under very stressful conditions.”

Q: What has the pandemic taught you about being a business in a small town? 

“The pandemic taught me how fortunate we are to live in a small town. Our locals saved us. Each week, I became more overwhelmed with gratitude for the locals who supported us, with many leaving very generous tips. We have always focused on the needs of our local clientele, which includes our close neighbors to the north and south, because they keep us going through January and February when we are slower. They truly rose to the occasion during this pandemic. My heart is filled with gratitude for each of them.”

Q: What are you looking forward to in the coming months?

“The next few months will be another challenge. I’ve learned to take this situation one day at a time because the amount of stress it brings is incomprehensible. I am looking forward to some semblance of normalcy. I am definitely looking forward to hugging my favorite customers (such as Miss Amanda)! Coming from a close-knit Italian family, the hardest thing is to refrain from hugging the people you care about. Also, to see the smiles on customers’ faces (not covered by masks) will be a joyous feeling. I hope to have the restaurant full of our loyal local clientele, our returning out-of-county and -state clientele, and new first-time customers in the near future.”

Q: How are you practicing self-care during this time? What do you do for yourself?

“I would like to say that I have a great regimen of self-care, but anyone who knows me would say that this is not the case. I have been practicing a lot of mindful deep breathing techniques and meditation to help with the stress. Even though I have worked on these techniques, it took a trip to the ER to get me to slow down and BREATHE! Now, I relax on my porch listening to and watching the birds. I keep in contact with friends who make me smile, and I am more present in the moment rather than stressing over things that are out of my control.”

Q: Nana and Nano’s is one of the most successful restaurants in town. What do you think is the key to the restaurant’s success?

“The keys to success are consistency, comfort, customer service, and good-tasting food. You must have a quality and a consistent product every time so a customer knows it’s going to be the same with each visit.  We also try to treat our customers like family; hence, the hugging of customers who have dined with us for 32 years. The good-tasting food is the direct result of my mom’s incredible ability to cook, which she learned from her great aunts from Sicily and her mom. We all know my mom is the reason Nana & Nano’s exists and continues to do so. She has been an incredible businesswoman and always gives back to our community.”

Q: What is the most popular item that you sell? What is your favorite thing to eat at your restaurant? 

“There are several items that fit in this category. From the deli, the most popular items are Margherita Pepperoni, Margherita Salami, Buon Gusto Salami, and olives with my homemade seasonings. In the restaurant, they are rigatoni and fettuccine, and the most beloved item is the meatball sandwich. As for me, I love it all. That question is like asking me which one of my children is my favorite. Ok, I won’t eat head cheese: I don’t like that child.”

Q: What is (normally) your busiest time of year?

“We are insanely busy in March for spring break, during all the summer months due to travelers, and in December for Christmas. Fortunately, we stay busy year-round due to our outstanding loyal customers.”

There is no doubt about it… living in a small town does have its perks. Trinidad’s supportive community helps small businesses like Nana and Nano’s survive, even during a pandemic. In times of uncertainty, sticking together is what keeps us Colorado Strong. Stay informed and compassionate with us through our weekly blog.