KENNEBUNK – When the coronavirus made its way to Maine and the state moved to restrict restaurants and cafes to take-out and curbside pick-up, Mornings in Paris owner Paul Humphrey wanted customers to feel comfortable and safe about stopping by for takeout croissants and coffee, or a picnic lunch to go.

So, he made a video for the cafe’s Facebook page.

Last week, he made another, to show people how Mornings in Paris was preparing for a June 1 opening for breakfast and lunch inside and at new patio tables, outside in the sunshine.

“If you make your customers feel safe, welcome and comfortable they’ll come back,” said Humphrey in a recent telephone interview.

And while the June 1 dine-in option was postponed by Gov. Janet Mills on May 27, Mornings in Paris and other cafes and restaurants will be open for dine-in customers when she gives the green light, and so the premise holds true.

The video was probably the best social media piece he’s done, said Humphrey.

And it caught the eye of an executive for Staples, the office products retailer.

Amy Lang is the vice president of strategy for Staples Connect, which in May launched a campaign called Turning the Sign, aimed at helping small businesses reopen safely.

“We featured Paul and a video he did for customers of Mornings in Paris on our website and as a link off our re-open checklist as a best practice example of how to reorganize customer flow and communicate it effectively,” said Lang.

Lang, her husband and young daughters visited Kennebunkport four years ago, bought a house in the community, and spend most weekends here. She said the family discovered Mornings in Paris while riding bicycles through town. They moved up in March when their daughters’ school closed, and Lang was looking at Facebook one day and saw Humphrey’s video.

Now, there will be more. Last week, as part of the larger “Turning the Sign” campaign, which features businesses across the country, a new video shot by Staples folks shows Humphrey discussing what he’s learned so far and how he is preparing for the dine-in option, when it comes. Later, a third video is planned.

Lang said the promotions give small businesses visibility and the ability to share what they’ve learned with a wide audience.

“I appreciated (Humphrey’s) approach of talking directly to his customers, welcoming them back and sharing how he was changing the business and what they can expect,” she said. “As a customer myself, it gave me a lot of confidence that this was a place I could go and feel comfortable. He did a really nice of job of balancing being open for business and being open safely.”

These days, Humphrey and others are looking forward to Kennebunkport Promise, a promotion launched by the newly formed Kennebunkport Hospitality Task Force that is, in a nutshell, a promise to employees, the community and guests that businesses are doing everything they can to keep them safe. Residents and patrons can visit kptpromise.com to see the protocols local businesses have pledged to follow.

Humphrey, who is from the UK, and his wife Katelyn, who hails from Connecticut, purchased Mornings in Paris in 2017, and currently employ about 10 people in the cafe.

When the coronavirus hit Maine, Mornings in Paris closed for a month, but then, with safety protocols in place like hand sanitizing stations, social distancing signs, Plexiglas across the counter, and more, reopened for curbside pickup and take out – and on June 1, for outside patio dining. The cafe accepts debit, credit and gift cards, but not cash.

Humphrey said he’s not spent more than $1,000 for the items he needed to make the Lower Village cafe safe.

And while business is down, these days, he said, merchants have to go a bit further to make customers feel comfortable.

“The world has changed,” he said. “We’re trying to do the best we can, and focus on doing the right things.”

This story has been updated after the announcement by Gov. Janet Mills to postpone the opening of inside dining in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties.

Mornings in Paris owner Paul Humphrey and some of his staff in front of the Lower Village cafe on a recent day. Like most cafe and restaurant owners, Humphrey is preparing for June 1, when the state has said restaurants may open for dining in. In the meantime, he’s offering takeout and curbside pick-up and recently made a video on the steps he’s taken to make sure employees and guests are safe. Courtesy photo

 

 

Mornings in Paris owner Paul Humphrey recently made a video on what steps were taken to make the cafe safe for employees and customers. It was picked up by Staples Connect, of the nationwide office retailer Staples. Courtesy photo

 

 

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