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Living through COVID-19: A trio of profiles – Part III

by Jerome Wright —

This is the third installment of The New Tri-State Defender’s ongoing account of three Memphians coping with the coronavirus amid government-directed efforts to slow the virus’ spread.

Seriously into couponing

The topic was couponing, the setting was a Zoom conference and the attendees were linked by Margaret Cowan’s nonprofit — I Am My Sister’s Keeper.

Margaret Cowan

Cowan calls it a “village” of single working mothers working to gain greater financial independence. With the village adhering to social-distancing directives, the Zoom conference was the group’s second foray into gathering virtually.

One of the mothers, said Cowan, is seriously into couponing.

“As a single mom, you have got to save money any way you can and with less money coming in (because of layoffs and furloughs), saving money is important,” she said.

Last week, the group managed to gather on the parking lot of the Frayser-Raleigh Senior Center, practicing social distancing, of course. Cowan said they now are trying to arrange some kind of in-person social gathering, maybe on a Sunday; again, within social distancing guidelines.

Cowan said she has made good progress on developing a strategic plan for her nonprofit, with hopes it will lead to more corporate sponsorships.

Updating threads from earlier installments, Cowan said the hotel manager, who was laid off, was called back to work. And, another mother, who was laid off from her hotel job, was approved for a COVID-19 Hospitality Grant.

As to what she has been up to in her personal life, Cowan said cooking, which she loves to do, and selling plates.


“What if someone wants a shave”

William Gandy Jr. adores his four-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn. His daughter brought her by his house on Tuesday. And while he and Brooklyn have been FaceTiming, it was the first time he had seen her in person in two or three weeks.

William Gandy Jr.

Seeing her was a welcome break from uncertainty. A barber, Gandy hasn’t worked at his Whitehaven barbershop since Mayor Jim Strickland issued a safer-at-home mandate last month. Barber and beauty shops are not considered essential businesses.

Last Saturday, Gandy and the other barbers at the shop engaged in a conference call, where the main concern was, “We’re all ready to go back to work.”

Gandy wonders what going back to work will look like. Will barbers or their clients, or both, have to wear masks? What if someone wants a shave, mustache trim or eyebrow arch?

An accomplished musician, singer, songwriter and author, Gandy knows those jobs also have dried up because of social distancing and safer-at-home mandates.

Since he has been off, he has finished a book five years in the making and completed composing a couple of songs. (Gandy’s “Barber Shop Blues” can be found on must Internet music platforms.)

Except for rare trips to the grocery, he has stayed at home.

Temporarily closed

The Lenny’s Grill & Subs franchise that James Cook operated at Memphis International Airport closed last week (April 10). Projected numbers forced his decision.

This week, he was working with another Lenny’s franchisee, whose company he has partnered with in the past.

From owner to employee and feeling ‘blessed’

Cook’s business situation at the airport got steadily worse. He is proprietor and partner with KC Eatery, which operates Runway 901 Bar & Grill and Lenny’s Grill and Subs.

He closed Runaway 901 after passengers through the airport dropped to a trickle because of the virus. He kept Lenny’s open, hoping that business from airport employees would help keep the business afloat.

Airport officials, however, reshuffled staff schedules to adjust to the virus situation, further reducing the number of potential customers.

On April 6, Cook was down to one employee and himself, and he had reduced operating hours.

Two days later, he was the only employee.

Two more days, and his Lenny’s Grill and Subs shop was temporarily closed.

With his grill and sandwich shop temporarily closed, James Cook landed work at another franchise location. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)




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