THEDFORD— When COVID-19 spread across Nebraska, restaurants shut their dining areas and moved to take-out or delivery forcing some places to lay off employees. While some sat at home wondering when they could go back to work, a small restaurant in Thedford took advance of the forced shut down to make some changes while keeping their employees on staff.
With an approximate population of 188 people, the village of Thedford has the amenities of larger towns including a high school and elementary school, banks, motels, post office, bar, a large gas station, grocery store, and restaurant. As one of the few places to eat in the immediate area, when the building was closed part-owner Jason Hoffman said that he and the other partners felt it was necessary for the restaurant to be open.
“It was kind of frustrating to not see it open,” said Hoffman. “We thought it was a significant void to the community not to have it open.”
Hoffman stated that the opening for the newly named Sandhills Corral was somewhat forced in 2018 as the summer season was already upon them. As the traffic to the area was beginning to pick up, the owners wanted to make sure the restaurant was open for locals and anyone traveling through.
“People were ready for this place to be open. We made some mistakes along the way to figure things out,” Hoffman said. “It’s been quite a learning curve, but it was such a necessity for the community and different events. Something had to be done.”
Just as momentum was beginning to build coming off of the best financial months the building has ever had, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the restaurant to shut its doors to dine-in traffic.
Hoffman said, “It really felt like things were coming together and [COVID-19] definitely hurt us.”
While the forced shutdown changed operations to take-out only, it also allowed time to make some improvements to the interior of the building. Because of the forced opening in 2018, there had never been an opportunity to create the look the Hoffman family and the other two partners, the Jameson and Hall families, had wanted for the interior. With the input of the staff and the doors closed to the public, renovations began.
Before renovations, customers would have sat down and seen boring walls in the bar area, cement and tiled flooring, but now things have improved in a big way. Long gone is the cement flooring which has now been replaced by a vinyl wood flooring, some of the walls received a fresh coat of paint along with more decorations and bordering, and large wooden doors separate the bar area from the main dining room.
While the new look is impressive, the more impressive part is the amount of work done by the staff. Hoffman said there was some contract work hired locally, but for the most part, the renovations were done internally by the partners, their families, and the staff.
“It was amazing how much everybody did within. Everything that was contracted was all local, but the staff did a great deal of it and I was pretty proud of that,” said Hoffman. “It’s just got a good feel to it now that we have renovated it. It’s a lot more comforting.”
With the renovations complete and restrictions slowly being lifted regarding COVID-19, the Sandhills Corral is open for business Monday –Saturday, 11 AM-2 PM, and 5-10 PM. Whether you’re craving Mexican food on Mondays, wings on Thursdays, smoked prime rib on Friday night, or a great meal on the weekend, the Sandhills Corral has a great selection of homemade dinners and desserts.
“We really appreciate the community support,” said Hoffman. “We’ve been able to maintain an awesome staff of local people. We just don’t have issues there anymore and that’s pretty exciting and it gives you hope for the future. I think with the new renovations it has put another spring in their step. There’s a lot of good things to come in this business and any extra support we really appreciate.”