Buying a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic was a 'gutsy move'

Posted at 4:15 PM, Dec 15, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When restaurants were closing across the country, one man saw an opportunity in St. Petersburg he couldn't pass up.

Chris Sherwood purchased Central Coffee Shoppe in St. Pete on July 1. The timing of the sale worked out in Sherwood's favor, big time. The original date to close the deal was April 1.

Then the pandemic hit, and luck was on Sherwood's side.

"Otherwise, with just a week or two on either side of that, I would've been the proud owner and been told congratulations lock your door you're done," Sherwood said.

We met Sherwood at the end of a very long workday. He does it all. Makes the grits fresh every morning, waits tables and makes sure it is spotless.

"We are super sanitary COVID or not," Sherwood said.

Sherwood said he was looking to buy a business in St. Pete for more than a year. He loved the area and the people who call it home and knew it was the perfect place to own a business.

"I felt that it had enough strength-wise in the economy and the people to survive whatever downturn we were going to get," Sherwood said. "I did not see a global health pandemic on the horizon."

Central Coffee Shoppe at 530 Central Avenue first opened in 1975. It has changed owners a few times since.

Regulars know it as a place where they can walk through the front door, and the kitchen already starts cooking their usual order. Business is down, but Sherwood is still surviving.

"Expect the unexpected this was pretty drastic," Sherwood said. "We are doing to-go orders, but the bread and butter is the sit-down part of it. We have the outside seating four tables outside, and sometimes we'll have a pooch at each table."

This is Sherwood's first venture into restaurants. For more than 20-years, he owned car washes. His approach to success is the same as its always been.

"Work hard, be honest, pay attention, and things can go your way. I think you'll succeed if you do that," Sherwood said.

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska asked Sherwood if he was crazy to buy a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic.

"It was a gutsy move to make that move when I did," Sherwood said. "Maybe I would've thought twice about it. But, no, I think you go around one time, and so you give it your best shot, and as Americans, that's the spirit, and we kind of rely on each other."