Opinion: Finding Meaning


A COVID-19 Silver Lining

One of our sons, whose career actually started as a lawyer, invested with a partner in buying a pizza restaurant in the Beautiful Wife’s ancestral home of Midway, Utah. It’s a nice story. The restaurant is in a century-old residence once owned by a relative, but their timing was incredibly bad—just two months before the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Alpenglobe lets a couple, family, or group of ten enjoy a private meal in a social setting while controlling the music and temperature. Photo/Skip Hellewell

Estimates vary, but one source says over 100,000 U.S. restaurants closed due to COVID. Did our son and his partner survive? They not only survived, but the restaurant also had its best year ever. The epidemic was a global tragedy, but some good did come from it. Long story short, on a business trip to London, our son observed a restaurant with outdoor Plexiglas barriers to protect patrons via private dining spaces. Our son’s restaurant had a large patio, popular in the summer but unusable most of the year due to the cold and snowy weather. Their creative solution, inspired by Midway’s Swiss tradition, was the Alpenglobe, a wood and Plexiglas structure that resembles Cinderella’s carriage, complete with sliding door and heating.

The COVID epidemic has now mostly passed, but the Alpenglobe hasn’t; rather, it seems to have created a new concept for dining. I don’t dine out much, more than just being a cheap guy. I find restaurants crowded, the music too loud or not to my taste, and the noisy groups at nearby tables bothersome. I’d rather eat at home, where I can enjoy quiet conversations with the BW and friends. But that’s just me; the BW enjoys eating out, and the Alpenglobe works for both of us—providing a private dining experience in a social setting where you control the music and temperature.

Two of our sons have the idea to start a business providing Alpenglobes for sale or lease. The design has been improved, and the BW and I just returned from helping them set up the new Alpenglobes at the restaurant. We all worked like Trojans, but at the end of the week, customers, from couples to groups of ten, were all enjoying the experience, including music from their cell phones. When the snow falls, it’ll be like those snow globes you shake to make the snow fall, except you’ll be inside enjoying a meal while the snow falls outside.

One other thing happened on the trip. Our sons are grown men now, busy with their own lives. But for a week, we worked long days, shoulder-to-shoulder, erecting the new Alpenglobes for the winter season. It was like the old days, before they left home, except they were in charge. Though it was hard work, it might be remembered as my most enjoyable week of the year. Wouldn’t seeing your kids grow up and become competently successful make any parent smile? There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].

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