An entrepreneur’s journey amidst a pandemic, Martin’s owner expands sister restaurant, Sidecar


Roanoke, Va. (WFXR) — Martin’s Downtown has been a go-to destination for live music, delicious food, and drinks since 2005, so when the opportunity to expand to the building next door presented itself, owner Jason Martin jumped at the opportunity. What Martin didn’t expect was to open up sister restaurant, Sidecar amidst a pandemic.

Martin describes Sidecar as a passion project. He was inspired by concepts he had seen in bigger cities and wanted to create a space that was more high-end, chef-driven, with brasserie, Euro pub vibes.

Opening up in February, Sidecar was well-received, but merely a few weeks later, with the Governor’s restrictions and the menu not lending itself well to take out Martin was forced to close Sidecar’s doors.

“It was getting very scary, it was touch and go… I mean we were dipping into our savings and basically at that point, we decided we were just gonna focus all of our energy on Martin’s.”

Jason Martin, COO- Martin’s Downtown, Sidecar

Martin says they were banking on the more established restaurant, Martin’s to pay the bills for both restaurants. Like many other businesses, Martin says they were floating through with PPP assistance and handling the situation the best they knew how. However, instead of giving up entirely, Martin did the unthinkable.

“The craziest thing we did while we were closed is that we expanded, which makes no sense whatsoever, but I believe in this concept so much and I believe in the team that we’ve assembled so much that I just think in my heart of hearts, I know things are going to come back and it may be a few more months, it may be spring next year, but I know we can weather the storm.”

Jason Martin, COO- Martin’s Downtown, Sidecar

Although limited to 60% capacity, with the main bar closed, Martin shares his secret to getting through these uncertain times as a business owner.

“You’ve got to look ahead to the future a little bit. I think if you worry about what’s happening, week-to-week, you get stuck in the mundane because it seems to change every week as what the biggest problem of the week is…and I think if you’re reactionary, I think you find yourself with more problems. You can’t readjust your business model every week. You’ve kind of got to look towards the future and kind of just say, ‘this is what we’re going to do and this is our path’ and then make adjustments in a broad stroke, trying to get to that goal.”

Jason Martin, COO- Martin’s Downtown, Sidecar

Martin’s entrepreneurship and dedication to his vision despite the many obstacles are inspiring. A certainty amidst all the uncertainty is that entrepreneurs like Martin and establishments like Martin’s and Sidecar have been creating a sense of connection and community that many seek ore than ever.

Interested in checking out Sidecar, click here!

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