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“One big family serving one big family”: Lake County rallies around local restaurants during COVID-19 pandemic — 88 Counties

Pandemic closures have been hard on Lake County restaurants, but the local community has, “stepped up tremendously to support the restaurant industry.”
Credit: WKYC

MENTOR, Ohio — This piece is part of our continuing 88 Counties in 88 Days coverage. This piece originally aired on Oct. 14, before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine threatened to close restaurants and bars down again.

When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine first ordered bars and restaurants to shut down back in March, local businesses were hit hard. For Austin’s Restaurants, it was particularly terrible timing, as their location in Mentor had just opened a few weeks prior.

Nancy DeTomaso is the general manager at the Mentor location, she said the pandemic has been, “extremely difficult, with the launch of the new restaurant due to the closing.” But, she says, when the location reopened in May with the rest of Ohio’s restaurants, it was received well by the Mentor community.

Credit: WKYC
Austin's opened their third location in Feb. 2020, only to have to close three weeks later due to COVID-19.

 “The community has stepped up tremendously the restaurant industry here in Mentor, and also in Lake County,” said Kevin Malecek, director of development for the city of Mentor.

Other staples, like Manhattan Deli, that have been serving the community for more than 30 years, have been held up by their loyal band of regulars. Owner Tim Shaker called it, “One big family, serving one big family.”

When Shaker was forced to close down, he said one of those regulars sent him a letter, along with $2,500, which she wanted distributed to the staff. “Half of them were in tears when I told them,” Shaker said. Unfortunately, that regular, Susan Rimes, passed away in September. 

Credit: WKYC
Obituary for Susan Rimes, a regular of Manhattan Deli, hung on the restaurant bulletin board

“We pray for her and her soul,” Shaker said, “but, at the same time, this is the kind of customer base we have.”

Going forward, Austin’s owner Dan Campbell says the local restaurant scene will continue to need support from the community. “Try and support the places that you love and have gone to for years,” he said, “so you can make sure that you can spend more of those happy times at those places.”

Editors Note: The below video originally aired on Sept. 9, 2020.