(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — One Waterford restaurant is hoping to help its customers and other businesses during these turbulent economic times.

Just on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was hit by a period of inflation the likes of which it hadn’t seen in some 40 years. That’s hit everything from fuel prices to grocery store goods.

Carini Restaurant in Waterford is in no way immune to either the pandemic or inflation. In January of this year, much of the staff came down with COVID-19 and the Italian eatery had to close its doors while everyone recovered. Now, the price of goods has skyrocketed.

“I was looking at old records, and the case of fresh mozzarella cheese we buy to grind for our pizza was $74 in February 2020. I just spent $180 for the same case of cheese,” said Kerrick Caldwell, Carini Restaurant owner.

Caldwell took over the restaurant in August 2021. He recently celebrated a year of ownership, however Carini in Waterford has been a town staple for some 30 years (it was started by Caldwell’s cousins). He picked a complicated time to become a restaurant owner (“The worst time to take over a restaurant,” he said), but Caldwell said he’s also mindful that the current financial pressures of the world are also impacting people in their everyday lives.

“It’s not just business owners — it’s everybody. Everybody is feeling it,” he said. “Even if you’re fortunate, you’re still feeling it. Maybe you’re not as bad off as everybody else, but you’re still feeling it when you buy groceries. You’re feeling it when you fill your gas tanks. Some people can’t afford to make rent right now.”

Caldwell said this led him to announce that he would include promotions for nearby businesses with his large pizzas. If all goes to plan, businesses will drop off discount cards, gift cards, or loyalty cards at Carini (118 High St., Waterford). Caldwell and his staff will then tape that discount card or gift card to each large pizza box that goes out the door. Obviously, that will help the businesses, but it will also help Caldwell’s customers and neighbors.

“It could be a loyalty card with 10% off for a hair cut. From some mothers, that’s a big deal,” Caldwell said. “She didn’t just buy a pizza — she bought a pizza because she didn’t feel like making dinner that night and she thought she’d treat herself and her family.

“I already know how hard it is to run a business, but it’s hard to run a family, too. Why not help them out?”

The plan was only recently announced on the Carini Facebook page, late on Monday, Aug. 22:

“… If you run a produce stand. If you own a bar. It doesn’t matter. You can be from Meadville, Titusville, Erie, Warren… it doesn’t matter. All it costs you is your own cost for these cards. I’ll advertise for you. I will,” Caldwell wrote on his restaurant Facebook page. “Attention Waterford. You’re my neighbors. You can bet we will put one in every large pizza box we send with a pizza.”

As business owners get their promotional materials to Caldwell, customers will start getting them with their pizzas. If he gets several cards from several different businesses, he plans to shuffle the cards and attach them at random.

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“It there are people that own a business — even if it’s a pizzeria, and even if it’s a loyalty card — just drop them off at the restaurant,” Caldwell said. “I’ll keep taping them on there until I run out.”