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Wickenden Street in Providence is a much different place these days. The street is devoid of its usual buzz of pedestrians. And The Shop, a cozy café normally bursting with coffee-drinkers, is empty. There are no tables, no chairs, and no customers.

But owner JP Murton wants people to know that they are open. Customers are welcome to order their food online and pick up at The Shop, just as long as they don’t pass the table blocking the doorway. "As soon as the governor announced that there's no longer dine in, we limited access to the space, got rid of all the seats," JP said. "And we still had people coming to the counter for the first two days. But one of the bigger things was: right, if we're going to do this, let’s really limit all of our interactions in both directions, right. And that's when we created just a little vestibule when you first walk in, and we've been there ever since."

As we’re speaking, people are coming in. They’re picking up lattes and muffins they’ve ordered online and paying with their cards at the vestibule. JP says they’ve served about 40 people already today. Zoe, the sole barista on duty, had mixed feelings abut coming in to work during the pandemic, "I was really nervous to say yes to doing shifts, but I ultimately decided that I know that what we're doing is the right thing. For us."

But the right thing for The Shop is not easy. They’ve had to temporarily lay off half of their staff. To add to that stress, JP runs The Shop with his wife, Diana, and they have 3 kids under the age of 10. "They're right in that car outside," Diana said as she pointed out the window. "That's their life. They're pretending they're on a camping trip. And there's bears following them. They're having the best time ever." 

When Diana is with the kids, JP is sanitizing counters and making runs to the market, and vice versa. Even though the days are long, the Murtons still feel privileged to be open. And they are using that privilege to give back to the service and hospitality industry. They have started selling meal kits and grocery bags on The Shop’s website that give their customers a direct line to wholesale distributers and farmers that usually only sell to restaurants. 

JP explained, "Our feeling is that if we can operate responsibly, that we should because the short term is challenging. Short term is mostly challenging because of all the unknown. You know, we'd almost rather know that it was the worst case scenario now and be able to make our adjustments now. Right? But really, it's the middle term and the long term that is giving us a lot of pause, because there are going to be a lot of people who need a lot of assistance. And as much as we can do to mitigate that now, we will safely and responsibly."

The Murtons are committed to serving their customers food and raising money for charity for as long as they can. A percentage of their meal kit sales is going to the Rhode Island Food Bank as well as a charity fund for unemployed service workers. Customers can also choose to add five extra dollars to their orders that will go directly to those charities.