Corvallis Culinary Month 2022 canceled, community urged to eat local

Owners Keara (left) and Tristan James with their son of New Morning Bakery located at 219 SW Second St. in Corvallis, Ore. They have been a part of Corvallis Culinary Month for many years and were going to participate in 2022 as well before its cancellation.

Hayden Lohr, News Contributor

Corvallis Culinary Month usually provides an opportunity for restaurants to increase business during the slowest time of year, but has been canceled this year amid rising COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages.

The Corvallis Culinary Month is a local annual event organized by the Downtown Corvallis Association to support local restaurants in January. This year would have marked 13 years of the event. 

Last year, it was largely relegated to outdoor dining and pickup because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jennifer Moreland, the executive director of the DCA.

“It brought in more business during a typically slow period, so obviously that’s going to be a negative thing, we won’t have the increased business from that… It’s disappointing that it was cancelled,” said Keara James, co-owner of New Morning Bakery on 219 SW Second St. in Corvallis, Ore.

The owners said New Morning Bakery benefited from the promotional aspects of Corvallis Culinary Month, especially in January.

“Sometimes when things are canceled they never come back; there may be good reasons for this year… But it could stop [the event],” said Tristan James, co-owner of New Morning Bakery.

According to Moreland, some restaurants broke sales records for the month of January thanks, at least in part, to the event. The Corvallis Culinary Month 2022 Facebook page says the event, which was supposed to be one week long, had been extended to support local restaurants, some of which have been seeing less customers.

“[COVID-19] definitely changed some of the Corvallis community’s attitudes about shopping and dining in downtown Corvallis,” Moreland said. “For the most part, I think it’s just made people more cautious. This is such a buy-local, shop-small community that we haven’t had a lot of closures, and most businesses have rebounded since shutdowns.”

The cancellation of Corvallis Culinary Month, because of its ability to bring in patrons, has some businesses worried.

According to Amy Nystrom, the owner of Long Timber Brewing at 180 N. Fifth St. in Monroe, Ore., the cancellation of Corvallis Culinary Month may prevent some people from going to new restaurants and trying new places to eat. Since Christmas, Long Timber Brewing has seen patronage dip, but that is fairly typical of January.

Though Natalie Payne, manager of Long Timber Brewing, said they have not experienced staffing shortages, according to Moreland, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has led to the issue for many other restaurants.

“The current [variant] is causing not only supply shortages, but employee shortages,” Moreland said. “Employers have had a hard time keeping employees to meet the demands of customers. Restaurants just don’t have the staff to actually participate in [Corvallis Culinary Month] this time… They didn’t have the manpower…We had six restaurants sign up, and we needed a minimum of 10.”

Keara James said New Morning Bakery has seen its own staffing shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have had some staffing issues, we’ve been very short staffed for a very long time,” Keara James said. “We’re definitely seeing more issues with staff in terms of exposure and quarantine, that’s definitely increased since the new variant and business definitely is slower than even it normally is in January. We don’t know if that’s because of variants.”

Tristan James noted their bakery has seen an uptick in consumers using curbside pickup and delivery options.

With the cancellation of Corvallis Culinary Month, businesses are hoping for people to still try new places and to shop local.

“It’s important to support your local businesses right now, whether you’re doing takeout or dine-in,” Payne said.