By Candice Wagener | Photographed by Hillary Schave
Tami Lax is truly the matriarch of females working within Madison’s restaurant industry. Lax owns Harvest and co-owns The Old Fashioned — both dining institutions familiar to natives and visitors alike.
However, nothing could prepare even a veteran like Lax for the events of 2020. Both restaurants have seen significant drops in revenue and are struggling to cover costs. “We’ve always offered good pay and insurance. Now it’s come back to haunt us,” says Lax. “This has taken the wind out of my sails … none of us are bulletproof. Our society needs a restart.”
The Old Fashioned went from 108 employees to less than 25, and Harvest has scaled down from 23 to six employees. She’s working 60 hours per week in the kitchen because “I can’t afford to pay anyone to do anything,” she says.
It’s hard for her to envision the other side of the pandemic; she and her staff are in survival mode. But she is incredibly grateful for supportive customers and vendors. “I’ve been overwhelmed and pushed to tears almost on a daily basis by the kindness of our local community,” says Lax. “That’s what keeps me coming to work every day. I keep my eye on that ball and just keep pushing.”