Restaurant owner near Debert offering meals to drivers for free
“You’re my angel.”
That’s a sentence Crystal Blair has heard on more than one occasion over the last 12 days while offering free meals to truckers amid the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.
It was almost two weeks ago when Blair was given the go-ahead by Suncor to shut down her business, the Glenholme Loop Petro Pass Restaurant just off Highway 104 between Glenholme and Debert. When she was announcing her closure on social media, that’s when she realized just what that closure could mean.
“Somebody was posting signs of another business’s showers being closed to truckers, and I began reading the responses. I realized immediately the predicament drivers were being forced into,” said Blair, while taking a small break from the 15+ hours she’s been spending daily at the business.
That’s when she said to her husband she had to do something. She stayed that evening to sanitize the showers available at the facility, and keeping them open to truckers.
“But I just thought, ‘I have to do more.’”
With the restaurant already closed and her staff sent home, Blair – an experienced cook – began to create a select breakfast menu for drivers for about $4 that included sandwiches and home fries. Along with free showers, coffee was also going to be free.
“I posted it to Facebook and the response went viral overnight,” she said. “From there, it just escalated.”
While she only started offering breakfast, Blair knew that wasn’t going to be enough.
“Drivers have been so appreciative. They’ve been coming here and I’ve been hearing stories about what they’re facing, and it was just starting here (in Nova Scotia).
“So I just kept doing it.”
The restaurant normally offers an extensive menu, however, Blair knew she wouldn’t be able to offer that on her own. Instead, she started with hamburgers and chicken fingers, with fries.
“It was easy for me without any staff here. We have such a large menu and I’m trying to do this on my own,” she said.
At first, she started offering the fried foods for drivers, at a charge just to cover the cost of the food.
“But right now, I have turkey in the oven, I have roast beef in the oven, I thought I could offer meatloaf…a full dinner,” she said.
“The response has been amazing. I can’t keep up with the messages (on social media). I’m hearing from drivers across Canada and the U.S.”
She said people in the community have started to step up and offer assistance, including monetary donations, and donations from suppliers.
“I’ve had cases of fries, boxes of eggs, and a small business even donated boxes of take-out trays, the exact trays I’d already been using,” she said.
Because of the support she’s been receiving, Blair has since been offering meals for no cost to drivers, although some won’t accept it for free.
“There are some good, kind-hearted, generous people coming out of the woodwork. They’re making this possible to go on.”
Since word has gotten out through other media channels, including television, Blair said the response has been overwhelming.
“I have seen so many grown men in tears this past week…this is really touching them. They’re making me feel special for this little gesture. Everyone is.”
She said more than once she’s been called an angel, and has had truck drivers stop by just to meet her and say their thanks.
Because of the overwhelming response, Blair has brought in a former employee to lend a hand, she’s so busy.
“I want to be able to offer a little bit more, especially if this is going to be going on for a while,” said Blair.
At the end of her first full week, she even had a five-year-old boy call after seeing Blair on television.
“He said he cried watching television. He was so mature in his speaking. He wanted to tell me how emotional he was. I think he said his dad is a driver, and he was just so excited to talk to me on the phone,” said Blair.
A couple hours after that phone call, Blair said a man walked into the restaurant and told her a young boy told him he needed to stop to see Blair. It was the same boy she talked to earlier in the day. She was able to get the boy’s number and plans to stay in touch with him.
“I want to do something special for him. I just don’t know what yet. I haven’t had time to think about that.”
Blair posts daily on the Glenholme Loop Petro Pass Restaurant’s Facebook page as to when the restaurant will be open for truckers.
Crystal Blair is shown with a donation box put together by five women of the Halifax caremongerers group on Facebook. The donation includes care packages for truck drivers, as well as a sign Suzanne Cascanette made that Blair has on display at the Glenholme Loop Petro Pass Restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Cascanette)