The Chaffee’s Got Heart Committee is honoring local businesses and individuals that have gone above and beyond by doing extraordinary things during the pandemic.
It recently recognized owner and baker Emily Walker of the Little Red Hen Bakery in Salida for their efforts.
“The biggest change we made was putting our line outside,” Walker said. “We never would have considered this if not for COVID, but we tried to pick something early on that would go above and beyond no matter what rules came into effect so we could get back into a rhythm that would allow us to focus on outstanding customer service and creating a delicious product. Plus, we gave people a place they could socialize safely from a distance.”
Walker also discussed why they decided to go above and beyond to keep the community safe.
“I take my commitment to employing members of our community very seriously,” Walker said. “Our employees and customers depend on us to be here for them so I wanted to make sure we could stay open. To do that, we needed to design a system that would provide peace of mind – for the 20 people on my team and for the customers – no matter what might happen. And it paid off. When we had an employee COVID scare back in October, it was really comforting to know that our customers had nothing to worry about because of the distance we placed between us and them.
“Out of an abundance of caution we closed for a few days until we all tested. As a small business, it was terrifying, but we knew it was the right thing to do and the feedback we got from the community was a hundred percent positive. It made people trust us even more and they came back in full force when we reopened.”
She said she saw examples of the idea that Chaffee’s Got Heart in their customers.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, what blew us away was that our customers weren’t just coming to us for food, they were coming to us for comfort and that was super powerful,” Walker said. “They sent such a strong message: you need to stay open because we need you, we rely on you and at the same time, they made it clear that they were going to be here for us, a definite sign of our community’s heart.
“We used to be so much friendlier and welcoming than we are now, giving samples, having kids play inside, chatting with customers – and it’s been scary to let go of that to be safe. We weren’t sure how people would react, but they’ve been amazing. We can’t wait until we can welcome people back into the store, but we know that the Little Red Hen will be OK until it’s safe.”
Her biggest takeaway from 2020, she said, is what the bakery means to the community.
“This was a scary year for a new business owner like me, but feeling this supported made me realize I want to do this for the rest of my life – run this bakery, here in Salida,” Walker said. “We matter here, which is a lot of responsibility, but it’s also gotten me through the tough bits of 2020 and it made our team so much stronger.”
Walker and her husband, Andrew (owner of Salida’s 7000 Feet Running Company) took over the reins of the Little Red Hen about a year before the pandemic hit.
For the latest menu and hours, visit https://www.facebook.com/littleredhensalida/.
The bakery is located at 302 G St. and also offers free deliveries after 4 p.m. within Salida. Call 719-539-2401 to schedule a delivery.