BILLINGS — When you approach the front door of Crazy Mary's Fish & Chips in Billings, you’ll now be welcomed with a bright pink sign, alerting customers they can only enter if they’re vaccinated against COVID.
And owner Mary Jackson has a pretty good reason for it: She says it’s to keep people safe.
“To feed my customers safely,” she said.
But her new policy doesn’t seem to be impacting her business. By Friday afternoon during the lunch rush, the small and quaint restaurant is packed with loyal customers.
“Being an owner and the only employee, I’ve got nothing to lose,” she said.
Her policy is firm, and it's due to her family being impacted by COVID.
“The very first day I opened about three weeks ago, I put a sign up saying to go only because of all the stuff I've been through in the last few months with my little brother,” said Jackson.
She almost lost her brother to COVID.
“I saw my brother lying there hooked up to the respirator,” she said.
His outlook was grim, she said at that point, her family was forced to decide.
“We signed the do not resuscitate papers,” she said.
Then, she said, she left it in God’s hands. Her brother was in the hospital battling COVID for months, and Mary herself was reeling with a surge of emotions about COVID. She says she was skeptical about the COVID vaccine once herself, but then saw the condition of her brother and had a change of heart.
“I got over to RiverStone (Health), and I'm sitting there and said, I got to do this because I don't want to end up like him,” she said.
The same day she got her COVID vaccine was the same day she got a call from the hospital. Her brother pulled through and was going to survive.
So, she says, the sign went up.
“For those who've been vaccinated, why should they suffer? Because they've gone through the channels and I just couldn't tell them to go away,” she said.
She set out to make an inclusive place for those seeking freedom from worrying about catching the virus and she says, she’s not afraid to lose customers.
For Jackson, making money from her business is not her goal. She cares about the health and safety of her customers.
“A lot of people pulled in and pulled out,” she said. “So I stopped chasing them.”
As for how she manages who is coming into her restaurant vaccinated and not? She says some show her their vaccine cards but mostly she trusts that they are being truthful.
She also wants to let them know, she’s vaccinated and proudly hangs her own vaccine card on display at the front of the counter so customers can see it.
In the end, she’s hoping her stance on vaccines in her place of business might persuade others to do the same.
“Well, maybe I’ll start something,” she said.