WELLS, Maine —
Most store shelves in Maine and across the country are bare of some very basic necessities in the wake of the coronavirus panic. Right now is a bad time to run out of toilet paper, and a restaurant owner in Wells thought he would do something to help.
After the Dow fell 2,000 points on Thursday and President Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency on Friday, Gary Leech decided to put a smile on people's faces. Over the weekend he decided to hand out a free roll of toilet paper with every purchase of a dozen donuts. For most people, the offer put a smile on their face and it didn't take long for the offer to spread on social media. After a couple of hours, Gary amended his offer to anyone who needed it, no purchase necessary.
But by Sunday Gary said something special started to happen. "When we were offering the extra roll of toilet paper most guests said, 'No. Keep it and save it for those who need it.' I thought, wow. That is pretty cool."
It is anything BUT business as usual for almost all restaurants right now, and Gary said Congdon's is not immune. As of Sunday, March 15, its sales were down about 20 percent, and by Monday, Gary had decided to close the restaurant and just keep his drive-thru open.
Gary is worried about his staff and for his town, but he's making new plans. The doughnut shop is only open Thursday through Sunday during the off-season, and Gary said, when they reopen on Thursday, March 19, they will offer free toilet paper -- up to two rolls -- to anyone who needs it, no purchase necessary.
"It’s what we do. If people are hungry you need to feed them. They're wet and cold, you need to bring them inside, you know. I love our town," Gary said with tears in his eyes.
At home, when you need a cup of sugar, you go to your neighbor. In Wells, Congon's is everybody's neighbor.
"There’s a lot of people that are really anxious about what’s going on in the world, and they need a giggle. It will help. It’s not going to fix it all, but it will definitely help," said Gary.