I ain’t lookin’ for prayers or pity
I ain’t comin’ ’round searchin’ for a crutch
I just want someone to talk to
And a little of that human touch
Just a little of that human touch
These lyrics were written by a great American poet. Though written years ago, they remain relevant to our trials today. If you do not know the author, read on.
Sheila Peck lives by the above words. To Sheila, ‘human touch’ is as necessary to survival as breathing oxygen and drinking H2O. In this age of social distancing and faces masked by N95, bandanas, etc., the lack of human touch has been perhaps the hardest part for Sheila. Human touch is one of the things that distinguishes us as homo sapiens. One of the cruelest side effects of the COVID-19 outbreak is the daily denial of a reassuring pat on the arm, a handshake, or a hug. Count Sheila as a ‘hugger.’ “I hug them when they get here and hug them when they leave”, she says.
Sheila is the leader of the Gastronauts at Gravity Brewing, an intergalactic group of culinary explorers who venture into the galaxy on a nightly basis to create food that somehow makes great beer taste better.
Gastronauts is one of the few businesses in downtown Louisville that has no street view. American Legion Post 111 surrounds it on one side, Gravity Brewing on the other. Not bad company. But Sheila and the Gastronauts up the game by serving incredible New York style pizza, Buffalo wings, burgers, amazing salads, and even delicious vegetarian options. If you have eaten their fried broccoli, do yourself a favor and order immediately.
As you are painfully aware, all restaurants and bars have been closed for nearly 2 months because of the menace called ‘coronavirus.’
“Our business has come to a grinding halt”, says Sheila, who has owned Gastronauts for four years. “I was a teacher before that, and also worked in the non-profit arts sector. I’m a real people person.” Fate led her to becoming a Gastronaut. Shelia especially misses her friends that were regulars at the American Legion. “It breaks my heart to not see them,” she says.
That’s what makes this so hard for Sheila. “I know almost everyone by name. They are my family and my friends,” says Sheila, who had to lay off 13 people when the state required Gravity Brewing and the American Legion to close their doors. Now there are two part-time employees and Sheila left to run Gastronauts, including her son, 19-year old son, Kieran. “You have to accept the changes or more people will die,” says Kieran. “We have to live like this or there will be dire consequences.”
Yeah, I know what you are thinking — a 19-year old speaking with the wisdom of a Lakota elder.
On the day of our visit, Sheila displayed her own innovative way to convey human touch. When Frannie, the adorable daughter of regular customer came to pickup carryout, Sheila maintained social distancing protocol, then raise her arms in a warm hugging motion. The action has been dubbed “the Coronavirus Hug.” If you haven’t heard, the CV Hug is now sweeping the nation. To learn how, see the photo up top.
To survive, Gastronauts has cut back hours to four days a week and is offering curbside pickup. Things got so bad that Sheila was close to shutting down Gastronauts indefinitely. Then a $5000 check from the government arrived, breathing much needed life into her small business.
Not even the mighty coronavirus can stop the intrepid Gastronauts. “We are continuing to push forward,” Sheila says. “My crew is dedicated and we feel the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t see it yet, but feel it.” Of course she feels it. We wouldn’t expect anything different from Sheila.
For Sheila and the Gastronauts, the Golden Fleece is a return to a time when human touch can occur with no hesitation, no reservations and no fear. That time is coming. Hang on.
If you have read this far and still do not know the author of the opening lines, “Human Touch” was written by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen!
Please support Gastronauts and ALL downtown businesses. They need us. Just as importantly, we need them.
DOWNTOWN STRONG### READY TO SERVE###