Wildwich Restaurant in Wilmington

Wildwich Restaurant in Wilmington

Mike Stanley looked down an empty Delaware Avenue on Tuesday afternoon and thought about his future.

The owner of the popular Wildwich food truck opened up a stand-alone restaurant at 800 Delaware Avenue in 2016 and has been through a lot.

He had his food truck taken for a joyride; he had a second location fail, but now he's facing his biggest challenge yet: Delaware's COVID-19 state of emergency.

While there is a lot less traffic going into downtown Wilmington as non-essential workers are telecommuting, there's still plenty of things open, and Stanley said he's ready to serve.

"That's the key thing—letting people know that we're here. Not everyone knows that we're open. Not everyone knows that we offer pickup and delivery right here off of I-95 in the middle of downtown on Delaware Avenue. We're really close to the [Wilmington] Hospital, so I'm trying to get through to a lot of people there because I know that's a place a lot of people will be working for the foreseeable future."

One way Stanley wants to help is by offering a free meal to all restaurant workers who have been laid off because of the State of Emergency and a ban on dine-in service.

Affected restaurant workers can stop by Wildwich at 800 Delaware Avenue between 2-3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

Stanley said he feels a special empathy to his colleagues in the restaurant industry because he's had to make some tough choices himself.

"Man, your staff becomes part of your family, and you do everything that you can to make sure that they're taken care of, because they come in, they bring a great attitude to work every day; they work hard, and they do what they have to do to make sure your business is able to succeed. I feel like I've let them down by not being able to keep them on. I really hope that we can get through this and get back to normal as soon as possible."

As for Wildwich's future, Stanley said he's still reeling from the closure of his second store, so the last thing he needs is a dramatic loss in sales in what is typically one of his peak periods during what would normally be the start of festival season.

"This spring and summer was going to be my opportunity to get the truck out there, to have business return to normal, and dig out of that hole. But unfortunately with this, I'm doubling down, I'm in dire straits. I'm going to be applying for just about everything out there and do everything that we can do build everything up, to save the company and build into the future."

It's a common refrain that many in the restaurant industry have learned, but Mike Stanley is ready to serve up a meal, and a conversation, and hopes that local restaurants will find their way to the other side of the COVID-19 battle.