PORTLAND, Maine — It's been 13 months since customers last sat inside of the dining room at Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland. Owner Cara Stadler opted to do whatever she could to limit her employees exposure to COVID-19.
Stadler's business, like so many other small businesses is in Maine, is still feeling the impacts of the pandemic.
"We're just thankful for any and all help that we can get," said Stadler.
That help is coming in the way of not just takeout customers, but now, a national brand. Bao Bao Dumpling House is the latest business to be selected to be a recipient of the Vans 'Foot the Bill' initiative.
"It means we can get more staff back on and get back to where we were before this all ripped the carpet from underneath us," said Stadler.
The 'Foot the Bill' initiative supports local businesses by selling shoes and T-shirts though Vans, showing designs of each businesses they represent. All net proceeds from the merchandise go directly to the local businesses.
"Anything and everything that happens is huge," said Stadler.
She says support for the items has already been strong among customers on social media. The shoe design itself was one made by a local artist.
"I've always wanted to design a shoe, or do something within that realm," said Westbrook based freelance designer Aaron Scripter.
Scripter says he often works with local businesses, including places like Banded Brewing and the Portland Museum of Art. For scripter, it was the perfect opportunity to help support a local restaurant, while sharing his design with a wide audience.
"You're getting something that's a piece of clothing. It's reusable, and you can kind of hype them in a way," said Scripter.
The items are still in production and Stadler and Scripter hope they can soon wear them to share with the community.
Stadler said she hopes to reopen the dining room of Bao Bao Dumpling House sometime this summer once her staff has had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
You can purchase the items being sold through vans as part of the initiative here.