Ryan Geiser’s slowest day of the week at his Taco Daddy’s restaurant in Martinez has typically been Wednesday. That has changed dramatically over the past few weeks, though, as his fans have rallied around him as he, in turn, gets behind his fellow downtown merchants.
“There’s a ton of camaraderie down here,” said Geiser, who opened his downtown Main Street restaurant in January 2018. “I look for the positive, and to help people out.”
To that end, Geiser has started doing fundraisers each Wednesday, in which he donates 50 percent of the day’s proceeds to workers at a downtown small business that has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first week, May 13, the fundraiser benefited the Citrus Salon.
“She brought vision and shared what you could do with a space in downtown Martinez,” Geiser said. “I think they set a good example.”
Candice Gliatto, Citrus’s owner since it opened in 2009, said she and Geiser were chatting about pandemic-related small-business hardships in general when Geiser said he wanted to help. The May 13 fundraiser brought in enough money to pay for one month’s health insurance premiums for the 10 employees on the Citrus plan.
“I already knew we had a strong small-business community here in Martinez, but a gesture like that at a time like this … it highlighted the difference between Martinez and other business communities,” Gliatto said.
This past Wednesday, the fundraiser recipient was the Studio 929 salon on Pacheco Boulevard. Crystal Rangel, Studio 929’s owner, said she and six other stylists in that space have been closed down since early April.
“There are no words,” an emotional Rangel said last week. “To have another small business to donate half of their proceeds, it’s just above and beyond.”
The beneficiary of the May 27 fundraiser will be Rose’s Barbershop. All food orders placed between 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. will be eligible to help the cause.
It isn’t as if Taco Daddy’s is rolling in dough at the moment — he’s part of the pandemic just like everyone else — but Geiser said things could be worse. He estimates his business is now about 50 percent, or maybe slightly more, of what it had been pre-pandemic.
The fact a good share of his business had already been carryout helped position him for weeks of no sit-down eating, he said.
Geiser said he plans to do similar fundraisers each Wednesday for other local businesses, concentrating on ones that have been completely closed, for as long as needed. It’s possible, he added, that the Wednesday fundraisers could continue even after businesses have returned to whatever a post-pandemic “normal” will be.
Geiser said his own lifestyle isn’t extravagant, which he says makes the fundraisers more possible.
“If I can stay pretty close to (break even) in the short term, I’ll be good to go,” he said.