If you had looked at them a year ago, it would have seemed that culinary sister act Caitlin Steininger and Kelly Trush had concocted the perfect recipe for a local restaurant success story. Their thriving Wyoming eateries, CWC and Station Family + BBQ, were local staples, built on a foundation of community support and open-door hospitality. But along came the pandemic and, with it, uncertainty.
“In the summer, we felt really hopeful,” Trush says. “We still feel very hopeful. But it felt manageable in terms of We’re going to do this. We’re going to be all right.” And for a while, they did manage. But the challenges were quickly mounting. For CWC, part of the issue came down to a simple lack of space.
Taking into account government-mandated social distancing rules, they could fit just five tables in an already cozy dining room. Sure, in the summer they could use the outdoor patio as a crutch. But when the cold arrived and the days of dining al fresco became fewer and farther between, Steininger stepped away from CWC to focus on family in October. “Against the backdrop of online schooling and the personal effects of the pandemic, she has determined that the demands of working at CWC are no longer something she can balance aptly with being a mom,” the restaurant announced on its Facebook page. “Our hearts are broken.”
The restaurant has been closed since Steininger’s departure. And at this point, nearly five months after CWC shut its doors, Trush isn’t quite sure what the future looks like. But she trusts in the “remarkable” community CWC built over its three years in business.
Just a mile down the road, Station BBQ, with its prime location in downtown Wyoming, has managed to carry on with a skeleton crew of employees prepping carryout orders and serving up homestyle barbecue to a reduced-capacity dining room. “Our challenges are not really unique,” Trush says. “Everybody else is kind of in the same boat. The fact that we can’t gather is just a bummer.”
The community, she says, has been good to them—the hospitality the sisters have infused into the very core of their business has come full circle. She’s eagerly awaiting a day she can greet her regulars with a hug to go with their brisket. For now, she might be spotted donning a T-shirt, gifted to her by a Station BBQ regular, with a social-distancing-friendly message: “Free Virtual Hugs.”
“Always, for us, the food has in secondary to the people part, the relationships and the community we build,” Trush says. “And they have loved on us as much as we want to take care of them. It’s really been amazing.”