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Lynne Gordon and Phyliss Mills enjoy lunch at Fo Sho Italian Sports Bar & Grille.

It has been nearly a year since COVID-19 changed the livelihoods of the Emporia-Greensville community.

No businesses were forced to face more obstacles than dining establishments. Many restaurant businesses, including some in Emporia-Greensville, didn’t survive the ramifications of the pandemic. Fo Sho Italian Sports Bar & Grille is one of the fortunate dining sites still up and running.

“I give a lot of credit to my wife Angie, who runs this place,” Hermie Sadler said. "She and our staff have adapted and dealt with whatever issues we’ve had to deal with. We’ve done the best we can to try and provide a place for people that want to come out and have a meal. We’re trying to create some kind of normalcy because there is not a lot of that going on right now.”

It has not been easy. When COVID-19 forced drastic changes to the restaurant business, Fo Sho went to a drive-thru service only in April. When indoor dining opened in June, restrictions forced limited seating and social distancing protocols as a precautionary safety measure.

Still, Angie and the Fo Sho staff did what they could throughout April to assist those on the front lines. Approximately $65,000 of food was donated to feed hospital staff, nurses, and frontline workers. That community support has been reciprocated.

The 1501 Wiggins Road establishment has a loyal customer base. Throughout the region, many customers, including northeastern North Carolina, made Fo Sho a must-go-to restaurant when it first opened 11 years ago. They haven’t wavered — even when the pandemic arrived.

“We’ve been coming here since it opened,” customer Lynne Gordon said. “They have great food and a great atmosphere. Sometimes we come here three or four times a week.”

One casualty of COVID-19 is the Fo Sho live entertainment. Country music star Rodney Atkins and top-flight comedians were common sites at the restaurant. The pandemic ended that — for now.

“When it’s safe and the appropriate thing to do, we’ll visit that,” Hermie said. “We haven’t discussed it. We haven’t planned it. I don’t see any of that in the foreseeable future. We’re far from over the issues that we’re facing with COVID and all the problems it causes us.”

Limited capacity remains for Virginia dining establishments. Fo Sho falls in that category. The staff makes sure the tables are correctly socially distanced and the bar remains closed.

One issue faced by employees at Fo Sho and other businesses is some customers’ refusal to wear face-covering when entering the establishment. If those protocols are not followed in a dining establishment, the health department could have it closed. Facing an irate customer over the issue creates another obstacle faced by the staff of the restaurant. Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people understand that even if they don’t like it, that’s what the regulations are,” Hermie said. “We’re just charged with getting people to follow the guidelines because we don’t want to get shut down.”

The restaurant business isn’t an effortless endeavor in regular times. Running a dining establishment during a pandemic adds more difficulty to the practice. Angie works 15-16 hours daily between the UPS Store and FoSho.

A vital aspect of making sure Fo Sho remains one of the region’s favorite eateries is a commitment to producing top-flight servers and kitchen staff. That commitment has worked for Angie. That’s why many of the Fo Sho employees have been on board since day one.

COVID-19 brought an adjustment to the hours of operation. Fo Sho is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.

When the pandemic struck last spring, no one really knew the duration of the virus’s impact. It remains an unknown. Herbie and Angie continue to adjust the business model to continue serving the community. The community continues to support the dining establishment.

“We’re so thankful, not only for Fo Sho but the Truck Stop, our convenience stores, and everything. We’ve received a tremendous amount of support.”