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Friends of Houston staple 'Potatoe Patch' raising money to keep it open amid COVID-19 pandemic

The country-style restaurant was founded in 1988, and owner Richard Andrews has had to cut payroll to make ends meet.

HOUSTON — The COVID-19 pandemic is sparing no locally owned restaurants, even those with a strong following.

Houston staple The Potatoe Patch in Westfield north of the city could be next. Owner Richard Andrews said he has had to cut payroll because he did not receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government. He has even helped out in the kitchen to cut costs.

He said he is worried about his 48 employees.

“That’s 48 families behind those employees that rely on me to make the right proper choice and decision so I can provide to them and they can continue to provide to their own," Andrews said.

That reality is a tough pill to swallow for longtime employees like Julie Ledden. Andrews' grandfather hired her to detail the trashcans 22 years ago. Now she manages the kitchen.

"It would be heartbreaking," Ledden said. "We're all one big family."

When friends heard about Andrews' struggles, they decided to help.

Ashley Lovingood Thomas established a GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraiser to help Andrews continue to pay his employees and the taxes on the property. Andrews said he does not take a paycheck, just enough to cover his expenses.

With slower business overall, plus capacity limits, restaurant owners like Andrews are struggling to make a profit. Getting some support from his friends means "everything."

"Time is something you never get back. When you give somebody else your time and your energy, you don't ever get that back," Andrews said. “It feels good when you know people actually care about you."

Andrews often donates food around the holidays, including this year, handing out turkeys and opening his kitchen so his employees could have a place to cook when their apartment complex management told them they could not gather.

"Why would I say no? They do for me seven days a week," Andrews said. “That’s what keeps you going every day when you have to work those 90-hour weeks and bills are due, stress is there. The people are what keep you going.”

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