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Family-owned business saving jobs, giving back amid COVID-19 crisis

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Posted at 10:36 AM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 14:13:58-04

SUSSEX COUNTY, Va. -- As COVID-19 continues to keep some businesses shuttered, others that remain open have had to make some drastic changes to stay afloat.

Some of the changes include cutting many jobs.

In Sussex County, sitting just off Interstate 95, a third-generation family-owned business is making changes, but those changes aren't what you would think.

Business at the Davis Travel Center and the other family owned businesses was going well, according to Davis Oil Company owner Rex Davis.

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"We went from not having enough employees to handle the business that we had, to within three weeks to a month, it was totally the opposite," Davis explained.

It was a change the family owned business did not see coming.

Tough economic times often come with some tough decisions and Davis Oil Company was needing to make some quick decisions.

"We have about 250 employees, two travel centers and two convenience stores in three counties," said Davis.

Business wasn't just hurting, customer counts were off about 60 percent, according to Davis.

So, a meeting of family members brought about a unique decision.

"We came to the conclusion we could re-assign the employee elsewhere in the organization… at other restaurant brands or moving people to the petroleum facility to help out and not lay anybody off,” said Davis. “We have not laid anybody off.”

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One of those workers who was reassigned was Barbara Wright who was a manager at Denny's restaurant. She was moved to the Davis' Wendy's.

"We had to end up closing Denny's because our customer count dropped 80 percent," Davis explained.

"I mean, I'm fortunate to be here, I Thank God Every Day," said Wright. "Initially I was worried, but they let me know, you know, that I'd be ok. They said we'd look out for everybody, so I was very pleased."

So everyone who worked at the Denny’s is still working, just in a different job at a different business.

"They've landed in Popeye's, they've landed in Wendy's, they've also landed here at the Travel Center," said Davis.

"I feel like times like this is when we need to show that we care about each other and they do," Wright said of the Davis family business.

In business since 1956, Davis Oil has seen their share of natural disasters and economic downturns, but they are loyal to their employees.

“We’re glad to have them and glad to keep them,” said Davis.

He says he understands who many of their full-time workers are.

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"Single female, head of households in this area and we understand they have bills to pay and we get that so we want to keep those people employed as best we can," he added.

Not only keeping workers employed, the family run business is also rewarding full0-time employees with paid time off.

"We gave them one week additional paid time off, in case they need to be out during this period," said Davis.

Additionally, he says those not eligible for PTO got a surprise in their last paycheck.

"You got a $300 bonus in your check last Friday and part timers got $150 bonus in their check last Friday," Davis stated.

It’s more than just a bonus to Destyni Bryant.

"It's a nice incentive to be like, ‘here you go, keep doing a good job, keep working hard.’” Said Bryant.

The company also hasn't forgotten about the community. The food that could have gone to waste in Denny's was prepared for more than 1500 meals.

"So for two weeks at the end of March and first week in April, we provided 110 meals a day out of Denny's to people in the community that either could not get out or should not be out,” said Davis.

For the truckers, the company upped their reward points fivefold.

"It's a good thing, it helps us out, free food, sometimes discounts, this and that, it's a good thing,” said truck driver Rick Recep.

With Travel Centers in Sussex and Brunswick Counties and a convenience store in Prince George, which all have Subway Restaurants, Davis Oil is offering first responders a free meal every Wednesday this month.

Watch CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil's Wayne's World reports every Wednesday on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. If you know someone Wayne should feature, email him at wcovil@wtvr.com

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