The owners of a Cable restaurant facing possible bankruptcy as the hospitality industry falters are cleaning out their cupboards to help their community.
Rob and Rachel Vallone have owned the Birches Roadhouse near Lake Namakagon for about 18 months. Rob said buying the restaurant was a dream come true for the couple who spent 35 years in the food business in Hudson.
But the coronavirus shutdown threatens all that. It comes at the worst possible time for the Vallones and a lot of other Northwoods businesses — during the lean months between snowmobile and ski season and the influx of summer tourists.
“We live in a predominantly affluent community, and a lot of our customers are 65-plus, a lot of them are veterans, a lot are summer residents,” Rob Vallone said. “This whole pandemic is likely to shut us down. If it goes into July and August, we’ll be done. So, we can sit here and cry about it or take the resources we have and help out community.”
The Vallones are choosing the latter. On Sunday at 3 p.m., they will open a pop-up, carry-out restaurant at the veterans center in Cable. They will hand out to all comers frozen portions of their customer-favorite lasagna, baked ziti and other Italian food.
They also have offered to do the same thing for employees at Ashland’s Memorial Medical Center.
“We’ve got to take care of our front-line medical people,” Ron said. “We’re still waiting to hear back from them.”
It’s quite a step for a couple facing economic ruin to contemplate. But the Vallones are worried not just about their own future, but the future of their seven high-school-age employees and the customers that have called the restaurant home for years.
“We have spent the last few days looking at every variable possible — if we can get every vendor to work with us, how long can we hold on?” Rob Vallone said. “We bought 6,000 bucks of food last weekend and we had nobody in the restaurant. Nobody. So what can we do? We’re going to be an example of what every other restaurant should be doing: Freeze what you can and give the rest away.”
The Vallones aren’t giving up all hope. They’ve been approved for a loan that might help them hand on until the virus shutdown break, and Rob promised to “fight to the bitter end.”
“But there are things much bigger than us,” he said. “We can sit and dwell on this or we can rise to the occasion and take care of each other.
Anyone is welcome to come Sunday. We’ll have food until the food runs out.”