MIDDLEBORO — Mark Hannon and Bill Fuller, owners of Middleboro’s oldest cafe, the Central Cafe, recently expressed their gratitude for the efforts and dedication of restaurant staff, area frontline workers and the Middleboro community as a whole during what has been an unprecedented time for the town… and the town’s iconic pizza joint.
Since March, Hannon and Fuller have been adapting “the Central” to align with COVID-19 standards set by the State and restaurant industry to keep both customers and staff safe. And throughout the ordeal and hustle have received nothing but support from all around.
“I’ve been in Middleboro since I was five years old, 1962, and I love a small town,” Hannon said. “And it’s times like this where that comes out.”
Mark and Bill have about 25 employees working at the Central Cafe between wait staff, bussers, and cooks, and have been able to keep them all employed throughout the pandemic. While some hours had to be cut and adjusted – to suit more take-out and fewer in-person diners and to keep up with ever-changing regulations – they kept most everybody working and contributing to the feeding of local customers.
Hannon explains: “We figured it out. We did it equally amongst all the employees that worked out front. We said, ‘This is how we were going to it, everybody’s going to get two shifts to start off with.’ So we had two people during the day all day and two people at night. And all they were doing was answering the phone and taking the orders.
“Who worked the hardest was the kitchen because they didn’t really slow down. We didn’t have any indoor dining for some time, but the takeout kept them very busy. And we appreciate the loyalty of all our staff.”
One special employee, Carol Fuller, who has worked with the Central Cafe since the beginning, is a hardworking member of their team. She is also Bill’s mother.
“Carol has worked at the Central since Bill bought the cafe in 1995. Carol has always been a major contributor, willing to do whatever is needed, for the past 25 years,” Mark explained. She is even known to all the staff over the years as “Momma.”
“Middleboro and the surrounding communities supported not only us, but all the local businesses. It was unbelievable how they just kept coming in and ordering; and they were very gracious to our wait staff during this whole thing, and they all appreciated it. It was a big deal,” Mark says.
While the dining room was closed and foot traffic to the Main Street location stalled in the spring, Hannon and Fuller took on some long planned renovations outside and took on some updates indoors, to freshen up and keep up with COVID standards in anticipation of reopening for in-person dining.
Of course, one of the greatest difficulties they faced faced was adjusting to the ever-changing coronavirus protocols and safety guidelines and ensuring they were doing everything possible to keep their community and staff safe. They sought guidance from and worked with other Middleboro-area restaurants, which helped a lot, especially when they reopened for indoor dining in July.
“Despite the fact that the pandemic hit us, Bill and I had already made plans to do some renovations to the building.
“… And what we did was put French drains in the cellar, which was quite an undertaking. We had a company come in and do that, DryZone, out of Bridgewater. And then we had Brian Waterman, he has an office two buildings down, do the roofing,” Hannon explained.
They committed to work with local businesses wherever possible throughout the process.
“We did a lot of renovations inside too like painting, and put in some splitters for the air conditioning and heating. So we did a lot inside and out while we were just doing takeout,” Mark says.
Today, the Central is in good shape to weather what remains of the pandemic and keep serving customers on into the future.