Q & A from the Field: Sims Foster and Kirsten Harlow Foster

Foster Supply

Livingston Manor, NY

Proprietor: Sims Foster and Kirsten Harlow Foster

Nothing shows true character like going through a crisis. Kirsten and Sims are the founders and operators of Foster Supply Hospitality, a hotel group with a few different locations in Sullivan County. They also founded the not-for-profit organization called A Single Bite, whose mission is to change the way kids think about food, choice, and perhaps life. One single bite at a time. Both Kirsten and Sims’ core belief in life and business is “community first.” We sat down and chatted with them to see how they have been handling this pandemic and how the strength they have shown their community, staff and family are true models of how to act during a pandemic.

Are you open for Business?

Some of our locations are doing to-go orders, but most of our locations have shut down to make meals for kids in Sullivan County through our not-for-profit called A Single Bite.

Have you pivoted your business since it became apparent things were about to drastically change and if so how?

Yes, we already had a not-for-profit called A Single Bite which already worked with school districts in Sullivan County to provide better agricultural education on where food comes from. Making the transition was easy when we decided to close some of our hotels and restaurants (while maintaining the same staff) to start preparing, cooking and delivering meals to kids and their families. For the restaurants that are still open we have been doing to-go orders only and taking very safe precautions when interacting with the public.

How do you see opening up your hotels and restaurants this summer?

I don’t necessarily know if there is a clear path in how to move forward, but whatever that path is we are going to gauge the right time based on our community.

Do you have any suggestions from what you have learned so far during the pandemic days to share with other business owners?

In our opinion and what has helped us the most in this time has been looking at financials, looking at forecasts, forecasting for ourselves, being disciplined, always going back to what our fundamentals and our foundation as a business, and through all that creating as many strategies and ways to move forward as possible. So, as we continue to go through this pandemic time we are prepared during and after.

How have you managed your staff during this period of time?

We have kept all of our staff, most of the staff has been transferred to be working with A Single Bite.

On a personal note what new habits from this time will you take with you into the future?

Keeping in perspective how history repeats itself and focusing on the needs of our rural community.

Are you doing anything right now just for you?

Even though we have been transitioning our businesses and creating new strategies, and working with A Single Bite we find we have more time on our hands than normal, and we’ve been doing sort of what everyone is doing, cooking a lot, spending time outside, gardening, home schooling our kids. We’ve been gentler with ourselves, knowing it’s okay not to be so productive, and trying to find the silver linings throughout the days.