Video story: Magpie finds silver lining in pandemic’s black cloud

Video and article by Chase Downey, contributor

Editor’s note: This is the third in an occasional series of video stories featuring the experiences of Harrisonburg residents who are opening a business during the pandemic.

Magpie Diner is one of several new businesses that has opened in Harrisonburg since the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic this year. And while it’s added a whole new level of difficulty to the already steep challenge of opening and running a business, Magpie so far has thrived, its owners say. 

Since opening, Magpie has been constantly busy, Magpie co-owner Kirsten Moore said. 

“We’ve seen a full house every day since we opened,” she said. “We’re actually outperforming our original projections” from before COVID-19. The diner, located on the corner of Liberty and Gay streets, specializes in breakfast, brunch and lunch and is open Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Magpie has not experienced any problems with the coronavirus since opening July 28, and employees must have their temperatures taken every morning before they clock-in — one of the unexpected effects of the pandemic that wasn’t in the original business plan. 

Another adjustment Magpie’s owners made was in the timing. 

When initially planning to open the diner, Moore had planned for the beginning of March 2020. But because of construction, that date got pushed back. It turned out to be a stroke of good fortune, Moore said. 

“If we had opened on March 1st and had to close two weeks later, that would have been a devastating situation,” Moore said in an interview with The Citizen just before opening. “We’re fortunate because of that.” 

Moore said that prior to opening, she spent a lot of her time reading “doom and gloom scenarios of the death of restaurants” in quarantine. 

In this video report, Moore and David Frazier, co-owner of Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters, explained what it was like trying to open this summer amid the pandemic with concerns about employees’ and customer’s safety overshadowing the traditional to-lists for a business’ launch: 

But instead of succumbing to fear and further stress, Moore made plans to use Magpie’s large patio space and open dining areas in order to keep customers and employees safe. Magpie Diner also made it clear to employees that if they felt any symptoms, they must stay home. 

Connected to Magpie Diner is Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters, which also has managed to a solid start, even during the pandemic. While not serving customers directly, Chestnut Ridge services Harrisonburg businesses with locally roasted coffee, and Magpie sells its roasts exclusively. 

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