Through adversity and with plenty of ingenuity, Bon Mi on E 13th Avenue opens

Store front of the new restaurant Bon Mi Vietnamese French Cuisine (Emerald/Max Egener)

When the University of Oregon made the decision to go remote fall term, shops nearby on 13th Avenue had to make the decision on how they would continue to operate. Stores like Yogurt Extreme, Bon Mi and Starbucks have been closed throughout fall term. Other stores have adapted their operations to remain open for students and other customers during this time. 

Cafe Yumm is new to 13th Avenue. Despite opening in a pandemic, Director of Marketing and Communications for Cafe Yumm Marne Dunder said he is happy they switched from their previous location on the corner of Hilyard Street and East Broadway to 13th Avenue. 

“When we decided to close that restaurant down, we actually needed two restaurant spaces to make up for it,” Dunder said. “One was even closer to the students on East 13th so we could be there for the UO students. This year, it’s pretty important for students to stay in place.” 

Hunter DeShaw is a UO student who works at the Cafe Yumm location on 13th Avenue. He said that there have been changes made so the restaurant can function during a pandemic. The establishment has plexiglass up, employees wearing masks and sanitizing protocols. The location doesn’t have any dine in right now.

DeShaw said that for the most part, he feels comfortable working right now. Every once in a while, however, there is a difficult customer. 

“I tell people to put their mask on, and having people be like ‘oh you know it’s all a sham right,’” DeShaw said. “Those interactions are never fun. I tell them ‘if we can’t accommodate you, you can go outside and you can call and pay over the phone or something.’”

Kiana Gellman is also a student worker. Gellman has been working at Bobahead since winter term of 2020. While Bobahead has reduced their hours of operation during this time, Gellman said it is busier than she expected it to be.

“I was working here right when we were finding out about COVID, literally right when the pandemic hit,” Gellman said. “It was kind of mysterious because people weren’t wearing masks yet, like it was kind of a foreign concept still and it was just dead in here, like no one would come in for hours.”

Now, Gellman said they get a significant amount of rushes in the afternoon. She, too, feels comfortable coming into work, and said the precautions — which are centered around being contact free — make her feel safe. She agreed that a difficult part of working right now is interacting with customers. 

“It’s a little bit more awkward interacting with customers,” Gellman said. “Sometimes it’s hard to communicate with masks and the curtain. It’s just kind of a different energy in here because you’re not able to have customers sit and hang out. We still have our regulars, like I still enjoy my little interactions with customers.”

Dunder said that the inability for customers to dine in was something they had to plan for when opening the new location. Takeout and delivery has been a big part of Cafe Yumm’s adaptation to the pandemic.

“If you go to that space you’ll see a very roomy interior that was designed and planned for pre COVID-19,” Dunder said. “And now that we’re there we have all these beautiful booths and tables, but no chairs.” 

Earlier in the pandemic, DeShaw said that he was getting hazard pay, receiving an extra four or five dollars an hour. Because he is working during this time, around campus, he wishes that this were still the case. 

“If [COVID-19] were to be out and about, I feel like it would be from campus people not being super smart with what they do,” DeShaw said. “We only had hazard pay for a couple weeks, and then they stopped giving it to us for some reason. Maybe the grant ended from the government, I don’t know. It would be cool if we still had hazard pay or some sort of a bonus for working through a pandemic.”