'You gotta treat people with humanity' — How a local bowling alley plans to attract workers

Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 30, 2021

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — If success had a sound, aroma, taste, feel and face, you'd find it at Arabica Coffee House.

"Arabica Willoughby has been here since 1996," said owner Tim Snyder. "2020 was a crazy year."

Snyder says success during the pandemic has been a grind.

"2021 has actually been really good for us," he said. "People are out and ready to enjoy life a little bit."

While business is up, he says help has been harder to come by.

"We used to average 30 to 40 applicants a month," said Snyder. "Now, we have three or four."

They're also younger — more teens than twenty-somethings.

"We've always paid pretty well," he said. "We've upped the price. We're not big enough where we can afford to offer benefits, traditional benefits, it's just through pay, time off and being understanding to everybody."

Like many small business owners, it means Snyder is working a lot.

"I work anywhere from 70 to 100 hours a week," he said. "Whenever there's a need, I work. It is hard. I thank God my wife is wonderful and really understanding. We talk about how this is like our baby. We don't have kids because we have this."

The Cleveland office of the Small Business Administration says small business owners are telling them that business has bounced back. Snyder said he's on track to have his best year in three years, but supply chain issues and staffing shortages remain common concerns. You see it from the heart of Downtown Willoughby to the West Side in the heart of Lakewood.

Cory Hajde is co-owner of Mahall's bowling alley. He also owns a concert company and cocktail bar. He said he's grateful to finally be fully staffed.

"It's been grueling," said Hajde. "Mainly getting line cooks, you know, in the kitchen."

Hajde is working to repair what he believes has hurt the reputation of industry jobs.

"I think a lot of people were burned out from having service industry jobs — being taken advantage of and taken for granted," he said. "You gotta treat people with humanity."

Hajde says there has been a lot of paperwork but he hopes to be able to offer his employees health insurance by the end of the year.

He is putting people first to keep business rolling, but the uncertainty of the pandemic still looms.

"Trying to take care of people, take care of their health, help people get more affordable insurance - I think those are all big takeaways which are great for the future," he said. "I think we can set a good standard for the industry as a whole, but I think we worry about the coming months because we are just not sure what is going to happen."

It's been a year of strikes and gutters for small businesses, but there's hope for more balance ahead.

"My biggest wish is that everyone can just keep supporting each other," said Snyder "I've gotten such great support from this community."

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