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Friday, January 27, 2023


Tomanni Bistro closes doors

Erik Schuk bids his two-year business a bittersweet farewell after rising prices force him to make a tough call

Photos by Danielle Gutierrez
The family-owned Tomanni Bistro, is one of the latest restaurants to feel the effects of the economic tumble.

By Danielle Gutierrez
Reedley – As inflation continues to drive prices up, day-to-day shoppers aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch.
The last few years have been hard on small businesses ever since the COVID-19 pandemic left a lasting impression on economic operations, and rising costs associated with inflation aren’t soothing any wounds. A restaurant in downtown Reedley, the family-owned Tomanni Bistro, is one of the latest restaurants to feel the effects of the economic tumble.
“Everything has gone up so much,” restaurant owner Erik Schuk said. “It’s not just food, it’s everything. Labor to utilities to food, every fee that anybody can imagine. It just keeps going up as the economy’s taking a nosedive.”
Most businesses and products are able to take the hit as they raise their prices to keep up with inflation, but Schuk said that from the get go, that was never the intention of his business. He said he wanted a restaurant that would be a downtown favorite, with fresh, unique food that was accessible to everyone. Considering the restaurant receives a lot of interaction from the elderly community, which is often limited on income, he said he doesn’t feel it in his heart to pass the financial burden onto his customers, especially not in a town he’s called home since 1994, when he moved here from Finland.
“It’s not what it was supposed to be,” Schuk said. “We’re not in a big, metropolitan city where you can do that.”
Although the shop had to raise prices by a small amount to keep up with costs, Schuk said people should be able to have a decent lunch for less than $20. It doesn’t sit right with him to double prices in order to make a living, nor it sit right with him to invest in lower quality food as a way to save money, since the restaurant only uses fresh ingredients for its food. This created another problem for the business and made the industry tough to be in, however, because when people are unable to afford eating out, restaurants with perishable foods only have so much time to sell their product.
With so many factors contributing to the business’ decline, Schuk made the tough decision of closing down the restaurant, with a final day set for Dec. 15. Schuk said he is not easily discouraged, however, as this was just a decision that had to be made for the time.
“It’s more of a decision of integrity, of what I promised I was going to do,” Schuk said. “I’m trying to stay true to what I said I want to do, which is to keep food affordable and keep it inviting and keep it fresh, and I don’t want to sacrifice quality of food.”
Schuk said he has been a chief for about 30 years, with an interest in cooking that goes back even further than that. He said the U.S. is the fifth country he’s worked in, so when he decided to open his business in Reedley, he wanted to do something different by bringing a French bistro-style restaurant. He took the initiative to open the shop after overcoming a strain of COVID, deciding that running a family-owned restaurant was a good way to get himself back on his feet; and alas, Tomanni Bistro first opened its doors in 2020, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I mean, who was crazy enough to start a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic? Well, I was,” Schuk said.
Despite the challenges of starting a business in a time of economic shutdown, Schuk said the restaurant saw a lot of business in its first year of operation. A worker with the business and co-chief Leo Abaloz said it was likely because the restaurant was in the perfect location and it even yielded a lot of support from outside communities, like Kingsburg and Sanger in particular. However, in the last year, business proved to be a challenge. Abaloz said the restaurant began to observe less and less people through the year, as did other restaurants as prices continued to rise, and he is disheartened to see the business go. He was honored to see the business grow into what it was within its two years of life, especially after hearing 20 years worth of aspirations from Schuk, who often talked about opening a restaurant throughout the entire time they have known each other.
“He always wanted to have something different, not something that everybody has,” Abaloz said. “He wanted to have a unique [business].”
Tomas and Annika Schuk, son and daughter to Erik Schuk and Tomanni Bistro employees, were both disappointed that the restaurant is coming to a close. Although inflation is still the largest contributing factor towards the situation, Tomas, 20 years old, said Reedley city officials should be more involved with small businesses and more mindful about taking business away from local shops. During times like events, where small restaurants could flourish, he said the city often brought in food trucks, which took away from business revenue. He does not think food trucks are at fault in the matter, but believes the city should try to put more attention on smaller businesses in the city, as mom and pop shops are the “root” of the town.
“Somewhere down the line, the rising costs and everything like that, the lack of support…that’s when we started taking the tumble,” Tomas said.
Although sad to leave, 18-year-old Annika said the timing of the decision was likely for the best. She said there was a lot of stress on her family, with her father managing a retirement community on top of the business’ operations, but the restaurant will always have sentimental value for her. A business student herself, she understands that higher prices lead to less customer interaction, and since the restaurant had to charge a couple of extra dollars to keep up with the economy, she can see why there was less customer interaction.
“We only had to raise our prices because our grocery orders got too big,” Annika said. “And [my dad] doesn’t want to do that anymore, because a lot of our customers just can’t afford that.”
The community development director for Reedley, Rodney Horton, said the impact of inflation is certainly leaving a negative mark on the small community. Businesses have had to endure restrictions during the COVID-19 shutdown, and now with inflation getting higher on the horizon, Horton said costs are getting borne by someone. He said in some cases, customers must bear that toll, but in this case it is Tomanni Bistro.
“We’re sad to see Tomanni’s go,” Horton said. “They were doing such a great job adding to the coolness of downtown Reedley, so we’re hopeful that we can get another business into that space and it doesn’t sit vacant for too long.”


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