Rofida Khairalla

I ’ve always viewed the fall as the start of new beginnings. Growing up in Northern California, I loved watching tree leaves turn colors before eventually drifting down to the earth. In Central Arizona, our experience of autumn is usually more like an encore of summer — but for me, the fall will always remain synonymous with transition.

At Pinal Ways, we’ve experienced our own transition. As the new editor, I’m excited to welcome you to our latest issue and look forward to our journeys together through many future editions of Pinal Ways. Over the last six months, our county editor, Joey Chenoweth, has overseen the magazine as we at PinalCentral worked to launch other projects like our digital newsletter initiative.

In case you didn’t know, prior to becoming the county editor, Joey served as the editor of Pinal Ways. He is incredibly talented and his experience has been integral in making Pinal Ways what it is today. Joey played a big part in this issue as well. He not only agreed to write an article for this edition, but also he graciously provided his input when I needed another set of eyes and listened when I needed to bounce ideas around. We could not have put this issue together without him, and I am extremely grateful for his help and guidance.

This issue is all about recognizing and honoring restaurants and similar businesses, which have suffered significant economic impacts caused by COVID. With that in mind, at Pinal Ways, we wanted to do what we could to pay tribute to local restaurants that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The food is a big part of my fondness of certain places, but sometimes what makes a restaurant truly magical are the memories I’ve made with friends and family there. From game and trivia nights at our favorite cafe to special celebrations at formal eateries, there is plenty of fun and laughter that often goes hand-in-hand with dining out.

Like a lot of things, the pandemic has changed some of that. As the number of COVID cases spiked midway through June, many of us realized that life, as we knew it in previous years, would remain on pause longer than we anticipated. But while the buzz of a crowded restaurant or a gathering of friends at a favorite grill has been put on hold for an undeterminable period of time, we can still support the local spots we frequented so often in the days before COVID-19.

Just as we are adapting to new ways of operating in our personal and professional lives, our favorite restaurants, coffee shops, cafés and other food-related businesses are also adjusting to a new normal. For some, however, the changes have not been easy to implement and for many, COVID-19 remains a threat that could — and in some cases, has — wiped out their livelihoods.

The pandemic’s economic effects have been far from subtle, especially for customer service-oriented businesses. In the face of uncertainty unlike any they’ve ever known before, these businesses are doing much more with less. The changes have encompassed operating on reduced hours and staff, working harder to keep dining rooms as germ-free as possible and reimagining previous expansion plans to account for social distancing.

These pages are filled with stories about the triumphs and trials local restaurants, and other organizations, have faced over the last six months. But you’ll also find stories that have nothing to do with COVID and everything to do with the personal histories and narratives behind how these places found their home in our county.

Of course, the one constant throughout the course of this year has been change. Interviews for this magazine began in early July and reflect the state of the industry at that time. At the beginning of September, our county reached the benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services to reopen certain businesses. Though we hope the trend continues, it is difficult to determine what the state of the pandemic will look like by the time this issue comes out.

As the situation with COVID progresses, we look forward to the days when bustling dining rooms and large gatherings at area restaurants become practical again. Until then, stay safe and continue to support local businesses in whatever way possible.

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