Many things have changed during the pandemic — how we work, how we shop, how we play. For Lure Seafood & Grille operating partner Ben Skiadas, the biggest change has come from adopting a different mindset. When restaurants and bars — including his own — were forced to shut down, he started focusing less on business, and more on community.
That changed mindset — one of reaching out instead of hanging back, of being proactive instead of anxious — led to a bigger vision for Skiadas. He began to realize how important his community was to him, and how good it felt to support it.
“When COVID hit, it was a big mindset swing for me,” he said. “Everyone had a reset, everyone had time all of a sudden … I knew the shutdowns were coming. So, even before COVID really hit Owensboro, I really realized that taking care of my staff was my first priority.”
Skiadas said he thought to himself, “Man, I really care about this community more than my business.”
That moment, he said, spurred a transition of thought that sparked a series of actions he began to take. Skiadas began either spearheading or participating in charity events, innovative collaborations, and food drives that helped feed the people of his city.
During the pandemic, Skiadas also started to realize the need for collaboration within the restaurant community, noting a lack of proactivity within the industry itself. With nearly every restaurant affected by closures or limitations, Skiadas said he saw an opportunity to bridge some of the gaps that had been in place for years.
“The first collaboration I did was with El Toribio. I grew up going there and know the family, and we turned that into a charity fundraiser and a collaboration,” he said. “That worked very well. We raised almost $1,000 for Goodfellows.”
After that, Skiadas teamed up with a number of partners, such as Jagoe Homes, to bring “Events at the Tent” — allowing patrons the ability to eat out and enjoy music in a safe, socially-distanced environment — to downtown Owensboro. He also partnered with the Barbarossa Motorcycle Club for a toy run, garnering $2,000-3,000 worth of toys to donate.
Despite the growing number of local and national issues that were making headlines and keeping people locked to their screens, Skiadas was determined to keep his positive, philanthropic mindset going. Before long, people started coming to Skiadas with ideas of their own.
“Shawn Brashear and Andy Brasher, a couple of local musicians, approached me and said, ‘What do you think about doing a concert to raise money for service industry folks who are hurting?’” Skiadas said. “We started a 501c3 and, so far, we’ve taken care of three families. We paid off their debts and have gotten them caught back up.”
That nonprofit — named “A Good Note” — is still going strong and accepting donations, he added.
Skiadas also extended a helping hand in getting Alejandra Toribio’s recent “Tour de Taco” charity event up and running. The event not only bridged gaps between a number of local Mexican restaurants, but raised $750 for Puzzle Pieces.
“It’s seriously been a transformation for me, mentally,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘My musicians need to work. My staff needs to work.’ Mile Wide Brewery just opened up at the worst possible time, so how can I help them? Cool, I’ll do a pop-up dinner. We sold out at the first dinner and people showed up and didn’t get any. Next Wednesday, I’ll make more and grow it. And that puts more people in Mile Wide’s seats.”
The partnerships and relationships Skiadas has helped build have only continued to grow in number. While he couldn’t reveal all the details yet, Skiadas said a partnership between Lure and The Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum was expected to take effect soon, and he hopes another partnership between Lure and Four Roses Distillery can raise thousands of dollars for the Nicky Hayden Foundation.
While Skiadas has no plans to slow down, it’s these types of collaborations, he said, that need to happen more often at the local level. From his perspective, the good he’s done for others has come from taking a Godsend, or an opportunity, or a stroke of luck he’s received along the way, and spreading that positivity to others.
“Since I’ve started that mentality, it’s been good for business too. But that’s not the motive,” he said. “When I’m acting in a way that’s more selfless, I sleep easier. I don’t worry as much. We can take care of each other in a really big way in this community.”