As the coronavirus pandemic started sweeping through New Jersey in March, businesses of all stripes were heavily impacted with little warning. When the first major lockdown was ordered on March 16, many had to switch to virtual ways of doing business, and restaurants had to pivot to takeout and delivery, even if they were not traditionally geared toward it.
Fiddleheads, a longstanding American bistro restaurant known for its a la carte dining in downtown Jamesburg, launched its takeout operation almost immediately, and through the spring months as the virus continued its spread, continued serving its core clientele a “greatest hits” menu, prepared fresh to order and brought outside for curbside pickup, according to information provided by Brian Blatz, co-owner and general manager of Fiddleheads Restaurant.
Although some restrictions on restaurants were lifted and outdoor dining became permissible in mid-June, Fiddleheads’ tiny single-bay storefront had no space to host seating outside. Whereas larger restaurants and chains erected tents or repurposed their parking lots, Fiddleheads’ small footprint, on busy Route 522 along the downtown railroad tracks, was left without options. That’s when a good neighbor stepped in.
“I’m in the business of helping people,” Carl Archer, principal of Archer Law Offices, which occupies a large Victorian-style building on Fiddleheads’ west side, said in the statement. “When I saw that outdoor dining became available, I knew that Fiddleheads would be perfect using our porch.”
“We got an email the day the governor made the announcement,” Blatz said in the statement. “It was from Carl, simply saying, ‘Could you guys use our porch for outdoor dining?’ We couldn’t believe our good fortune. Carl has been a friend and business associate for years, even before he opened this office in Jamesburg, and we knew it was a huge favor but also a great fit. Who wouldn’t love dining on that pretty veranda in the warm weather, especially after a long quarantine? And it just showcases that beautifully restored building and calls attention to the essential work that Carl’s firm does.”
The restaurant has hosted Archer Law Offices’ luncheons and holiday parties in the past, and Archer has done legal work for Fiddleheads and many of the restaurant’s clients; the two businesses have also collaborated on networking events, according to the statement.
Fiddleheads’ other owner, head chef Dan Davis, adorned the veranda with tables and soft lighting and brings music and candlelight to the porch each evening, while Blatz mans the phones indoors at Fiddleheads for takeout orders and reservation requests and servers hustle back and forth, according to the statement.
Now hashtagged “#CarlsPorch” on social media, this arrangement is a testament to the neighborliness of a small New Jersey borough, according to the statement.
Fiddleheads continues to do a brisk takeout business while indoor dining is still prohibited statewide, but the veranda dining is available by reservation after 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
“It’s a lot of work hoofing all that food and equipment out there, and some days it is really hot,” Blatz said in the statement. “But wow, what an opportunity and a great gift. Our customers love the atmosphere and appreciate our staff’s hard work, and Carl is now known as an absolutely great guy by lots more people.”
Archer Law Offices, LLC, is a Central Jersey elder-law firm focusing exclusively on the needs of those who care for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Headquartered in Hamilton, the firm also has offices in Moorestown, Bridgewater and Jamesburg. For more information, visit www.MercerElderLaw.com.
Fiddleheads, in business since 1992 and owned by Blatz and Davis for the last 16 years, currently has takeout available from noon to 7:30 p.m. and dinner on Archer Law’s porch starting at 5 p.m. The restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, visit www.FiddleheadsJamesburg.com.