Downtown Farmington ice cream maker, bakery, and restaurant pivots to online sales

Single-use face masks, vinyl gloves, and rolls of toilet paper, all delivered to the home.

Or maybe you want to do some baking. Easy enough. Just put in an order for yeast, flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. There it is, right on your doorstep.

This is not the work of an enterprising grocery store but rather Browndog Barlor & Restaurant.

Welcome to 2020.

With locations in the downtowns of both Farmington and Northville, and a recently-opened food manufacturing facility in Oak Park, the Browndog business was humming along at a pretty good clip. But for Browndog, just like any of its neighbors, business was ground to a near halt as the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

Rather than rest on its laurels, Browndog has transformed its website into a one-stop-shop for the essentials — hello, bleach spray — and many of the favorite dishes and items from its menu.

As it currently stands, Browndog’s Northville location is open for carryout and delivery orders. And though the Farmington location is temporarily closed, the city is within Browndog’s 11-mile radius available for deliveries, meaning that fans of the downtown Farmington location can still order their favorites.

On the eve of the statewide shutdown of restaurants, Browndog quickly transformed its website to become a marketplace for both its own products and those of others.

"Calling in orders can be cumbersome when you can’t see the menu in front of you. The key to our success has been our online store. It’s very user-friendly," says Paul Gabriel, co-owner of Browndog.

"It took our management team 24 hours of work. It was no easy task. But we dragged and dropped and rebuilt it."

As to when Browndog will re-open their Farmington location, Gabriel says that they’re taking things one day at a time. The idea of opening at a state-mandated reduced capacity makes him nervous, he admits. But the warm weather could bring a higher demand for their ice cream, which could open the Farmington location sooner rather than later.

Until then, the Browndog brand is still available by order on the website. And so, too, are the products of other local food makers.

"We wanted to help local food manufacturers. We’re food makers ourselves," Gabriel says.

"There is a demand out there for local food products."

Visit the Browndog Barlor & Restaurant online.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.