Beer Cans Turned Into Candles to be Beacon of Hope for RI Restaurant Workers
Monday, November 30, 2020
J.P. Rutkov, who owns Camp Nowhere on Smith Street in North Providence and Dr. Duff's Lost and Found Project on Putnam Pike in Johnston, said he decided to get into the candle business in order to help his staff.
The state's coronavirus restrictions for businesses -- especially the curtailed nighttime hours, which Rutkov has said has impacted his tipped workers as much as 90% -- had him thinking of ways to generate new income.GET THE LATEST BREAKING NEWS HERE -- SIGN UP FOR GOLOCAL FREE DAILY EBLAST
"I think I was on Etsy, and I saw candles in beer cans, and said hey, that’s a good idea," said Rutkov. "We partnered with a packing plant in Johnston, and we’ve experimented for a couple a weeks."
The candles, which sell for $20, will see $6 of each sale go into the pockets of his waitstaff.
"I never thought I'd be doing this. This time last year, we were strictly brick-and-mortar," said Rutkov.
Partnering with Community
Rutkov's first partner for cans? Narragansett Beer.
"I didn’t anticipate [the upcoming two week] break — I had the [candle] idea two weeks ago, when I said what can we do to keep the staff busy," said Rutkov. "I certainly don’t anticipate making millions of dollars."
"The first person I reached out to was Jim Crooks at Narragansett Beer," he said. "He’s such a hands-on partner there, and is always willing to do anything to do with community outreach. He’s amazing."
Rutkov said that the first 100 candles produced sold out right away -- and that he would love to talk with other breweries to feature their "can blanks."
As for the proceeds going to employees, Rukov said they will decide who gets how much.
"They'll figure out how to divvy [the proceeds] up, tribal elders-council style," said Rutkov, who said between his restaurants, he has around 25 employees.
And for the buyers? Yes, the candles will smell like beer -- or at least, the underlying flavors.
"We're trying to match essential oil flavors with the beers," said Rutkov, so that the candles in the Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Mile cans will smell like coffee, and the candles in Narragansett's It's About Time IPA cans will have hoppy citrus undertones.
And for people who want to buy the candles -- and support local workers during the holidays -- Rutkov said that people can contact the restaurants early this week to place orders as well as onine.
Dealing With Restrictions -- And Helping Workers
"I think that the reduction in hours — from 1 AM to 10 PM — has been the most traumatic part," said Rutkov of the state's latest restrictions. "We were already limited to 50% capacity, and then most profitable hours were taken away from us. Staff have literally seen their tips cut 90%, between the 50% of customers loss, and then those peaks hours for getting tips."
"Everyone’s had their hours cut — and everyone’s calling for hours," said Rutkov. "When summer rolls around we’ll be good again. The people hardest hit aren’t the business owners — it's the staff."
Rutkov said he hopes customers understand the restrictions -- and pressures -- placed on businesses right now, and that if they can, consider helping staff even more with tips this holiday season.
"We're literally turning away hundreds of people," said Rutkov. "People drive from miles away, see empty tables, and wonder why they have to wait for a half-hour or more. It can create tough interaction situations."
"I'd just want to remind customers that the staff is working for a lot less money right now. I wish these kids could get tipped more," said Rutkov. "So I think this candle idea is a cool way to help do it."
The owners of two popular Rhode Island restaurants are thinking outside the box -- and inside beer cans -- to help their employees this holiday season during the pandemic.
J.P. Rutkov, who owns Camp Nowhere and Dr. Duff's Lost and Found Project, said he decided to get into the candle business in order to help his staff, who are facing substantial shortfalls in light of the state's coronavirus restrictions.