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Tommy's Restaurant gets last-minute opportunity to stay open in Coventry Village

Tommy's had planned to close on July 6, but found a solution across the street that helped them stay open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Tom Fello, owner of Tommy's Restaurant in Coventry Village, has fought through it all. 

It's a neighborhood where he grew up, opened a restaurant at 18 years old and where he has continued to keep the community fed for almost five decades. 

"This is my neighborhood," Fello said. "It's been an amazing journey." 

While he has been serving food and signature milkshakes to the community since 1972, the community has continued to show up for him, too. They showed their support back in 1988 after his first location burned down, and members of the community helped him rebuild it. 

"We shouldn't be in business right now," Fello said. "If it wasn't for the neighborhood, we'd be out of business." 

That sentiment remained to be true again after being dealt the hard hand of COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come along with the virus. 

Pre-coronavirus, Tommy's business was 90 percent in-house and about 10 percent carryout. All of that changed overnight, and their business was forced to rely solely on carryout and curbside pick up. 

It was going well, for a few weeks. 

"After a while it started to slow down a little bit. I started thinking the cash flow isn't there to support the business."

Times have been tough, and some have even stepped up to provide donations in this time of need. Longtime customer Dave Budin even left a $200 tip after a recent meal.

Tommy's plan was to shut down on July 6. That was the plan, until an opportunity presented itself across the street. 

Unfortunately. Panini's was forced to close their doors. For Tommy, he was able to rent their patio, allowing them to expand their seating and stay in business. 

So now, food is prepared at Tommy's then walked across the street and served to customers on the patio. 

"These days you do what you have to do to stay in business, to support your employees and your neighborhood," Fello said.

Keeping the community fed, jobs alive and food on the table. It's been Tommy's tradition in Coventry Village since 1972.