By Dasha Morgan
Biltmore Village – Like so many other restaurants, the well-known Southwest Fresh Mex restaurant, The Cantina, in historic Biltmore Village closed their doors on March 17th. As a fundamentally “green” establishment, it would not be profitable for the owners to offer expensive curbside service or delivery. The “green” packaging for take-out would be extraordinarily expensive.
So the husband and wife team, Sherrye and Anthony Coggiola came up with another plan to lessen the trauma for their well-loved staff. They would provide their staff with a box of fresh food each week for the next 18 months. With approximately 50 employees and their families, that amounts to approximately 148 family members to feed each week, so they wouldn’t be worried about food. This is a sizable commitment, which they felt was needed in these trying times. Some of their staff have large families, even as many as seven; others are smaller. So the boxes vary in amount depending on family size.
Each box has a protein, a starch, and vegetables. They are overflowing with freshness and nutrition. Monday the orders go into food suppliers; Tuesday, the food is delivered; and Wednesday is drive-up and pick-up time at The Cantina. To celebrate Easter each family received some special treats: an 8-pound ham, some free-range eggs donated by one of their staff members and even some toilet paper.
Each week the process for pick-up gets improved. According to their fact-filled Facebook page, The Cantina Familia, “We clean the surface and loading area, boxes, and we are gloved and masked. Your Care Box for this week: Chicken breast, pork sausage patties, jalapenos, lemon, lime, rice, beans, macaroni pasta, cheese and tortillas. We are now ordering and using up stored inventory. Google or share recipes. This week and this is the fifth Care Box since we started the CCP, and we love doing the work for you all!”
“These are scary times for us all. We feared that by closing our doors, we would lose connection with our staff,” says co-owner Sherrye Coggiola. A big part of the Cantina Comfort and Care plan is the opportunity to foster further connection and communication with their staff. “This plan allows us to see our employees every week,” Anthony explains. “We are able to check in with them. We see them face-to-face from a distance of at least 6 feet. We ask, are you OK? What do you and your family need ?” Sherrye and Anthony did not want any member of their staff to feel alone or to go hungry. This kind of stress can be overwhelming and cause all kinds of problems. “We are one big family. Together we will get through this. We intend to not just survive but to thrive,” Sherrye Coggiola said.
Anthony Coggiola is co-owner of The Cantina and CEO of C3L Associates. His C3L Associates traditionally specializes in assisting agribusiness, healthcare, and humanitarian related organizations with the procurement of critical assets, development, and sourcing. In Guanajuato, Mexico, in January 2020 C3L led the development and implementation of a multi-day training program. This program consisted of accredited, cross-cultural, regenerative agriculture and educational exercises for University students from South, Central, and North America. Anthony has spent the past few decades developing sustainable solutions for disaster relief and recovery as well as food security.
Since committing to this donation, Sherrye and Anthony have expanded their “Care and Comfort” Program to other displaced hospitality workers. By purchasing a gift card online a person can donate the amount to the restaurant’s program to feed displaced hospitality workers and their families. The dollar amount will be doubled. Buy a gift card to feed displaced hospitality workers now, and later when the doors reopen, your family and friends can use the gift card. The Coggiolas recently spoke to the Historic Biltmore Village Merchants Association to let more people know about the program. Go to https://cantinabiltmore.com to buy a gift card. In these difficult times, this is a win-win for everyone.
Over the years the Coggiolas have given thousands to Manna Food Bank, Asheville’s local food bank, which they have supported throughout this devastating pandemic. They also donate to Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries. In their restaurant, they have developed and implemented a ‘skip a side’ option. Here’s how it works: At The Cantina each entree comes with your choice of two side dishes. Guests are given the option to “skip” their sides. When taking an order, their server simply asks, “Do you wish to ‘skip a side’ and be happy with just your rice?” If yes, then The Cantina donates the $2 retail value to Manna Food Bank. With each side dish skipped, Manna provides seven meals. The donations from the ‘skip a side’ program have fed nearly 500,000,—a half a million meals, an incredible number.
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with people’s lives and the economy throughout the world, Anthony says while smiling alongside his wife, “Everyone could use a little extra comfort and a little extra care at this time. While the doors to The Cantina are currently closed, we will continue to provide food for our staff and their community.”