D.J. Harper, co-owner of A Game Knight, 345 North 3rd St., in Hamilton s German Village, has started taking bulk food orders from people unable to find items in the store because of the coronavirus. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Living through coronavirus: His Hamilton restaurant closed, but he found other ways to feed

Then when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared all bars must close and restaurants could only serve carry-out or have food delivered, D.J. Harper, co-owner of A Game Knight, 345 North 3rd St., in Hamilton’s German Village, temporarily closed his business that he bought just four months ago.

Still, Harper heard about the grocery store shortage.

“That ate at me,” said Harper, 33, of Hamilton.

So he decided to take steps to improve the food desert for local residents. He took bulk food orders for meat and other items and called Sysco and placed a large order. He sold the food at his cost.

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The first order went “really well” and Harper plans another order for Friday. Orders can be placed on A Game Knight’s Facebook page, he said. He called that the “simplest way to order.”

He said each order takes four to five hours and his return is much greater than his time investment. Harper said seeing the reaction from those he helped was surprising and, although he’s not emotional, he was overwhelmed.

“I wanted to help people, but I never expected this,” he said. “I never thought people would get this excited to get white bread. It threw me. I was not prepared to see how hard people struggled. It feels great but it was surprisingly emotionally taxing.”

He also hopes when the coronavirus “blows over,” those he has helped in the community support his business.

Harper, who owns the business along with his wife, Lindsey, and friends Jacob Eichhold and Brittaney Cavin, also of Hamilton, bought the business late last year, less than one year after it opened.

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A Game Knight serves a selection of domestic, import and craft beers from 20 taps and three nitrous taps serving nitrogenated beer, said Harper, 33, who has 14 years experience working in food service or food service management jobs.

The menu features soups, sandwiches, handmade appetizers, vegan/vegetarian fare and housemade desserts.

He said the food is only 30 percent of the business so the carry-out business didn’t generate enough revenue “to keep the lights on.”

He added: “It was cheaper to close.”

Harper and his wife have a 6-year-old daughter, Abigail, and Lindsey is three months pregnant. There’s never a good time to close a business. This may be one of the worst, he said. He has met with his landlord about forgiving rent or prorating the payments.

He has been closed for more than two weeks, and the week before that, total sales were about $1,000.

“We are all the way under water,” he said. “I just hope to make the best out of a bad situation.”

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