What would you do if one of your employees was murdered? For Bloomington, Indiana pizza restaurant Pizza X, this nightmare scenario came true on November 3, when pizza delivery driver Adam Sarnecki was shot to death after confronting a man who was breaking into a car outside the restaurant.
This was a horrific tragedy. No one ever wants to think about the possibility of getting killed during a routine shift at work, or losing an employee or colleague in such a terrible way. Adam Sarnecki was only 22 years old, and is survived by a fiancée and three young children.
In the face of this tragedy, the owners and staff of Pizza X decided to close the restaurant for three days, re-opening the following Monday. But instead of going back to business as usual, the restaurant owners decided to do something out-of-the-ordinary: they announced that for the next three days after re-opening, they would donate 100% of the restaurant’s sales to a special memorial fund for the family of Adam Sarnecki.
The community rallied. Pizza X co-owner Jeff Mease said that the scene reminded him of the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where the entire town comes out to give whatever they can. The restaurant was packed with customers and the phone lines were jammed with delivery orders. People waited in lines stretching out into the street. Former employees and employees from other locations came in to work impromptu volunteer shifts to help keep the pizza ovens moving, baking and boxing over 2,000 pizzas in 3 days.
After a three-day whirlwind, Pizza X announced that they had raised $42,000 for the Adam Sarnecki Family Fund – including $30,000 in sales and $12,000 in additional donations (above the sales price of the pizzas).
I’m not from Indiana and I’ve never eaten at Pizza X, but this story really resonated with me. I first found out about the story through one of my clients (a friend of the restaurant’s owner), who asked me to help write the press release announcing the fundraising total for the Adam Sarnecki Family Fund.
I don’t mean to suggest in any way that this story about the $42,000 fundraising total is a “silver lining” or a “happy ending” to the story of Adam Sarnecki’s death. Nothing can possibly make up for what his family is going through. But this story does show that even in the most tragic circumstances, communities can still rally and show their resilience, show their empathy and compassion, and show that they care about the people who serve them every day.
This is an inspiring story that shows what small businesses, at their best, are all about: creating a community, building something bigger than ourselves, and making a positive difference.
Small businesses are not just money-making operations. Sure, we all want to make a profit, but ultimately what makes small businesses so special is that we have a chance to create powerful personal connections with our customers and our communities, in ways that the bigger companies cannot. The generosity and quick thinking and teamwork displayed by Pizza X staff, owners and customers, is one of the best examples of how small businesses are making a difference every day, in ways that go beyond money.
If you’d like to make a donation – no matter how big or how small – to the Adam Sarnecki Family Fund, Pizza X is continuing to accept donations online at their website: http://pizzaxbloomington.com/donate.html