zero to ten with Courtney Estes

Over a year ago in April 2020, right at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we sat down with Courtney Estes and spoke to her on one of the worst days of her life.

Courtney is the owner of Lincoln’s Haberdashery, a popular restaurant, bottle shop and hang-out space in South End, and Garrett Tichy, our owner, called her on the day she had laid off the majority of her staff.

The call was an emotional one. Courtney considers her staff family – it’s part of what makes the Lincoln’s environment so warm and inviting. “Everything fell on the shoulders of the management team,” she remembers. Those who stayed employed took hourly pay and reduced hours as the restaurant was forced to close by the government mandate.

It was one of the lowest points for her, but looking back now, she felt the whole situation made her and Lincoln’s stronger.

“I’m the thing that’s most different about [the restaurant], and I think people can tell,” she says. “I’m there every day and I own part of the business so I feel like when I connect with regulars and we have certain conversations, it used to be a very one way street. I want to connect with them and make their day special but when the pandemic hit, I really needed it to be a two way street.”

She says this looks like the restaurant’s most loyal customers showing up however they can to support the business, be it hosting meetings in the store to drive up sales or connecting her team with people who need items made for them.

Though she’s still understaffed and Covid-19 remains an uncertain variable in her life, Courtney feels more hopeful and positive about the future. She’s continuing to hire people to work in the kitchen. Lincoln’s is continually expanding its offerings and is even looking into wholesale options for their mouth-watering bread.

And the experience of running a restaurant and keeping it open when so many others were forced to close due to the pandemic has taught her a lot: chiefly, to not be afraid to lean into and lead with her emotions, something a lot of people advise against in the business world.

“I think a lot of people are told to compartmentalize work-life versus personal-life, and that’s easier to tackle whatever hurdle comes your way, but for me hospitality is extremely emotional and extremely personal,” she says. “It’s hard to kind of separate those things – put them in boxes and get through the day. I think if I was going to leave someone with something, it would be lean into your emotion because if you’re not leading with your emotions and your passions, then is it something really worth putting your effort and time into?”

You can listen to the full conversation with Courtney above or by finding Zero to Ten wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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