27 May 2020

Here in Temple, Texas, community response and support during COVID-19 can be defined by the companies and individuals who make up our city. Meet Bo Harvey and Jacob Bates who have led the small business charge for community support. Bo and Jacob are the dynamic duo behind Bird Creek Burger Co. and Treno Pizzeria and Taproom.

Both Bo and Jacob were raised in Temple, Texas, so it’s safe to say the roots of their restaurants run deep. Bo moved to Temple in 1982 when his mother came to work for Scott and White Memorial Hospital (now Baylor Scott & White). After living in Austin for several years while attending the University of Texas at Austin, and even battling what was then a treacherous commute, Bo opted for a better pace and quality of life in Temple. He established his career at Professional Datasolutions Inc. (PDI). While working at PDI, Bo met and worked closely with Bruce Bates. Over time, the two developed a close bond that would lead them to local notoriety.

When Bruce left PDI in 2017, he and Bo stayed in close contact. Bruce’s son Jacob had recently opened Bird Creek Burger Co., a now beloved downtown restaurant specializing in gourmet burgers, comfort food and craft beer. After visiting a Colorado establishment serving pizza and beer on tap, Bo was inspired. He was impressed with Jacob’s management skills and creativity, so he contacted the Bates family about going into business together to establish a similar restaurant.

The response was immediate and straight to the point: “Sounds good.”

“Temple deserves a family-friendly pizza joint,” says Bo. “We can do it in Temple, and we can do it better than other places. Our goal is to provide a really safe, enjoyable time for people to share together.”

The decision to launch Treno Pizzeria and Taproom in downtown Temple was simple. Bruce is a one-third partner in Tanglefoot, the umbrella company behind Bird Creek Burger Co. and Treno Pizzeria and Taproom, along with Bo and Jacob. Bo and Bruce own several real estate investments downtown together and are committed to Temple’s downtown revitalization.

“You see the revitalization in Georgetown and Waco,” says Bo, “but Temple has a lot of infrastructure and people to support those things, too. With a strong contingency of healthcare workers and medium to high earners in our growing community, we have affluence. Temple is on a precipice and the time is now.”

With similar goals in mind, Bo Harvey and Jacob Bates charge forward with their synergistic vision of downtown Temple: a thriving place for people and families to eat, shop and enjoy the city to its fullest. Treno Pizzeria and Taproom, set to open this summer, will be the newest evidence of that vision. With gourmet pies and beer on tap, Treno is the duos’ proof that they can be great stewards to the community and have a great time.

Central Texas mural artist Laced + Found created this Treno mural to attract visitors in downtown Temple {Photo Credit: Jacob Bates]

When COVID-19 broke out in Central Texas, the team did not hesitate to respond. In order to keep their staff gainfully employed, Bates and Harvey paid employees a large percentage of their salary, including tips for servers, beginning on day one of the Texas shutdown. Although the umbrella company encompassing Bird Creek and Treno incurred increased payroll costs, it was worth it to the team to show the loyal intentions they hold for their staff.

While Bird Creek Burger reduced capacity and increased social distancing, they were forced to shut down operations for the health and well-being of staff and customers when a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Again, their response went above and beyond: While the health department did not require the business to shut down, but recommended a three-day quarantine for all affected teammates, Bo and Jacob decided that a two week shutdown felt like a safer time frame for everyone involved. During the shutdown, all employees were still paid as promised.

“We just want to do the right thing,” says Bo. “If you’re transparent and you’re honest, 99 times out of 100, people are appreciative of that.”

This time has allowed the business owners to focus on Treno Pizzeria and Taproom as a main offering to the community. Once a city permit allowed a food trailer to park in front of the soon-to-be restaurant, business was hopping. After witnessing the demand, the team created “Drive by Pies” to offer pizzas in local neighborhoods while Temple citizens shelter in place.

Jacob Bates shows off the construction progress at Treno Pizzeria and Taproom in downtown Temple, Texas

Similarly, when Bird Creek Burger Co. reopened, the team created a new menu of heat and eat meals to make food more accessible for families while dining out remains limited. Jacob also felt inclined to do something for the Temple ISD custodial and nutrition staff who were working to ensure students were fed during this time. Therefore, the restaurant fed those workers for one week in April.

When the Junior League of Bell County launched the “We over Me” campaign to aid small businesses in April, support for Bird Creek was more evident than ever: the restaurant earned a grant nomination to help supplement costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, Bo and Jacob opted to turn that into something more for the community and are now catering meals for front line medical workers at Baylor Scott & White.

“We’ve always had the support of the community,” says Jacob, “and we want to be front and center when our community needs us in turn.”

Investors like Bo, Jacob and Bruce prove that Temple is a strong, vibrant community built on pillars of belief and hope. Together, they are building a community that attracts not only locals, but destination travelers eager for a piece of the pie. For more details and to find the next Drive by Pies location, visit @birdcreekburgerco and @trenopizzeria on Facebook and Instagram.