Success Stories · Oct 2nd, 2022
Two women, a restaurant, and a pandemic. The women are Peg Dalton and Kelli Coppola, the owners of PEGGS restaurant in downtown South Bend. We all know about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it destroyed lives and businesses. Dalton and Coppola managed to get their business through it, despite difficult times and some very unlucky timing. It took resiliency, creative thinking, some help from the government, support from the community, and just plain hard work.
“Every time I heard about a restaurant closing, I knew that we could be next,” Dalton said about the worry of losing the business. “Fortunately, I had a strong partner who was able to figure out the financial end of things. We had a really good grasp on the financial piece. We also had a ton of support from the community. People bought gift certificates that they never used, and many ordered carryout. We even received checks from people who had moved away from the community. It was amazing.”
PEGGS has been in business 19 years. For most of that time it was known as Le Peep, a great little breakfast place on Michigan Street. Dalton owned it and ran it by herself. But then in 2017, the business took a new direction when Coppola joined Dalton as a partner and co-owner. They decided to rebrand the restaurant as PEGGS. Then, a couple years later, they cooked up a plan that would not go over easy. They began an 1,150 square foot expansion project that created much more space for customers, and also included a deli and a bar. Finished in January of 2020, the new space was a big hit right away. Dalton says business in the first two months of 2020 was far beyond previous levels and much better than they expected.
“February is typically our worst month, but February of 2020 was 10 percent higher than our previous best month ever, and 59 percent higher than the previous February.”
Everything was going well, but then, the pandemic began.
“In March of 2020, we tried curbside delivery for a couple days, but then we decided to just shut it down,” said Dalton. “We called a meeting and we had to lay off the entire staff. We actually went to 1st Source Bank and took out several thousand dollars so we could give our employees cash to help them get through until they could get unemployment. It was really hard.”
Dalton says they always knew they would come back, but they had to take some time off to rethink the business.
“We knew we couldn’t come back as a seven day a week business. It just wasn’t going to work. So, we inched back, and we decided not to open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But we needed to find another revenue stream, so we’re now open on Friday and Saturday nights until 8
They also got some much-needed help from the government. When Congress passed the CARES Act in late March of 2020 it included $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It was money earmarked specifically for businesses and it became a lifeline for many, including PEGGS. The money was distributed as a potentially forgivable loan to be used for payroll and other business expenses.
“We know we were one of the first businesses locally to get those funds and that money was critical,” said Dalton. “And our bank, 1st Source, was great about it. They guided us through every step.”
Dalton says she is optimistic about the future. She believes their ability to adapt and do business more efficiently will have PEGGS cooking along into the future.
“The pandemic was hard on so many businesses, especially restaurants. Those of us who managed to get through it are going to be here for the long haul. The lessons we learned will make us all better off. It’s all going to work out in the end.”