(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) One year after Gabriel Palmer reopened Lino's Pizza in the East Hills Mall food court, he recounts the challenges of the past 12 months.
Palmer said he's held on to the memory of the first day he reopened the mall staple.
"We saw over 700 people on our opening day last year," Palmer said. "It was really something to remember."
Thanks to a strong history in the mall, Lino's loyal following provided big business in the early days.
"For about our first two to two and a half months it was really busy, we could not catch a break." Palmer said. "Every single day was non stop."
Palmer said his business was just about to get on it's feet back in March, then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The mall was shut down for almost two months, when it reopened in May business was slow to respond.
"We just didn’t see the same mojo that we’d had before," Palmer said. "People were sheltering in place they were doing anything that they could to really stay safe and it took a toll on us."
With sales down and no time to save money for hard times, Palmer said he had to make some tough decisions, he had to cut payroll and costs to keep Lino’s open.
Though the crowds had diminished, the reputation of the business didn’t, Palmer credits this survival on those who continued to support the pizza vendor.
"Fortunately we had a very strong customer base that stood behind us through all of that," Palmer said. "Quite honestly if we didn’t have that customer base there’s no way we would have made it."
Now with a year under his belt, Palmer said the lessons learned in that time are too many to count.
"I’ve learned so many things that people don’t learn after ten years in business in one because it was forced on me," Palmer said.
Those lessons he’s planning on taking with him into the future, as he continue to keep the tradition of Lino’s alive.
"I don’t see Lino’s going anywhere," Palmer said. "I really see a future here."
Palmer was 19 yrs old when he started the business, his future plans involve going back to school to study law, he wants to eventually expand Lino's into other locations across St. Joseph, and beyond.