CHARLESTOWN — It’s been a rough six months for K&S Pizza, but after two shutdowns and supply shortages, the small restaurant at the junction of Routes 112 and 91 in Carolina prepared to reopen last week.
Souad and Majeed Sukkar started the business in 1986 in a building across the road, and the restaurant was moved to its current location in 1995.
Their son, Louby Sukkar, who now owns the restaurant, said he had to close at the start of the pandemic and then again when an employee fell ill. The employee and the rest of the staff tested negative for coronavirus, but the restaurant was closed on Oct. 6 for two weeks.
“One of my employees called me and she’s a full-timer and she said ‘I’m feeling sick. I have a fever. My throat hurts.’ I said ‘you need to get treated immediately,’” Sukkar said. “I immediately shut down the restaurant because I wanted to make sure if there was an issue there, we take care of it right away. We had the entire staff tested, which took quite some time to get through the testing. The results were slow.”
None of the nine employees tested positive, but Sukkar said he felt that for the safety of his customers, it was necessary to do a thorough deep cleaning of the entire restaurant.
“We wanted to mitigate it,” he said. “We’ve always been there for the community, from day one …. We’ve always had that connection to our customers because our customers pay our bills. They’re the reason I can put food on the table for my kids …. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this financially. I’m going to try my best but I had to do this because I know it’s right.”
Closing the pizzeria also meant having to discard food. Sukkar is now restocking, but he is having trouble finding all the provisions he needs.
“Now we have to reorder all this stuff, re-prep everything,” he said. “I can tell you, when we start, everything’s going to be really, really, really fresh.”
Sukkar said the first shutdown, from March 27 to April 14, made a dent in his business that took weeks to recoup.
“It was very difficult to get our business back to where it needed to be to sustain and keep the light on and our employees paid,” he said. “Each week since, I’ve really been struggling with these hurdles. Every single week, there’s a hurdle, whether it be an employee having a scare, whether it be not being able to get the right cheese. Some weeks, I can’t get pepperoni. Some weeks, there’s no flour. Some weeks there’s no paper products. Other weeks, there’s no sanitation products. So you’re always jumping through hurdles just to get normal things done that we used to take for granted.”
Louby said the costs of many supplies have also risen, but K&S has not added a COVID surcharge to its prices.
“Business owners, we’re working so hard and costs have gone up 30, 40, 50 to 70% in some cases, for items that are not even as good quality as they used to be, and a lot of us, we’re working so hard to not pass that along to the customers that we care so much about,” Sukkar said. “So we’re just kind of getting squeezed and squeezed and then these hiccups happen and they really put us into a financial tailspin.
“I’m going to make it through because we always find a way to make it through. We’ve been around since 1986. We’re not going anywhere.”
K&S will be open seven days a week beginning on Thursday.