AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Broken Spoke, the beloved Austin dance hall and restaurant is facing what its owner calls some of its most challenging times as one of their key employees is hospitalized with a serious medical condition.
Ginny White Peacock, 43, is the daughter of Broken Spoke owner James White. Peacock was hospitalized last week after severe pain to her abdomen. During surgery doctors found that what they initially thought was a ruptured appendix was actually a case of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Peacock remains in the ICU and likely has a long road of recovery ahead of her. Her family said doctors don’t know what exactly caused her condition, but that created a dangerous infection her medical providers weren’t sure she’d survive. Peacock’s family said it is likely she will have weeks to months of rehabilitation ahead of her.
“This has got to be probably the worst battle or the hardest mountain to climb that I’ve ever had to deal with,” said White. He is visibly worried over his daughter’s health, he teared up recalling her initial time in the hospital. White is also stressed with the logistics of staffing his business in her absence.
Besides spending her life since birth at the Broken Spoke, Peacock is also one of the few full-time employees there, helping to manage the establishment by running the cash register, scheduling guest events, and handling all of the dance hall’s online operations. Her husband, one of the other key employees, has been by her side and unable to help out.
White explained that his small family-owned business is hurting without the extra help, while he worries about his daughter’s health he is also helping to cover the jobs she and her husband performed, all while taking their children to school.
Friends have organized a fundraiser to help Peacock and her family as they try to help her recover and keep the Broken Spoke running.
“I’m asking people to help Ginny and Mike (her husband) through this time here,” White said.
White said he is grateful for the former employees who have volunteered their help in his daughter’s absence. He also said customers can help by bringing in their business to Broken Spoke or by offering support to his daughter.
White made it clear, they are looking to hire people to fill in the gaps. But he noted that with Austin’s low unemployment rate and shortage of people interested in restaurant work, it is difficult to find people to hire and even more difficult still to find people who want to work full time.
“But once they get here, they have a good time,” White added.
Currently White has around 11 employees total (including his daughter and her husband) with only about half of those employees working full time.
Broken spoke has been in operation for 54 years. White explained that Peacock, his youngest daughter has been at the establishment since right after she was born, he proudly showed off photos of Willie Nelson and Ernest Tubb smiling with her during her childhood.
As she grew older Ginny would bedazzle button down shirts for her dad, she’d clean the kitchen, cook food, bartend, promote the business on social media — her dad said she knows the ins and outs of the business. In fact, White and his wife plan to hand down the business to Peacock and her husband someday.
All this makes Peacock a particularly difficult employee to replace, she is a manager and knows all the business history, many musicians and quirks of the music business, as well as the logistics or running a restaurant.
“We need Ginny Baby back here at the Broken Spoke, and she’ll be back someday,” White said.
Mike Counihan with Austin restaurant consulting business Counihan and Associates LLC told KXAN that there are dozens of family businesses in Austin who face similar issues, especially because family employees often know the business particularly well and are difficult to replace.
Counihan said that when a personal or medical situation comes up in a family business, the business often sees a downturn in sales and operations.
“[Austin] is a very critical community as far as food service and restaurants, and customers should give them a chance, give them a chance to go over that hurdle, especially when you take a key person out of your operations, you gotta be a little more tolerant,” Counihan said.