Community coming together to help local business

NOW: Community coming together to help local business

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- A community coming together to help a struggling small restaurant stay afloat amid the pandemic.

Taste of Asia has done what they can to stay open during the crisis and now some of their customers are pitching in to help make that happen.

“So many businesses have been affected and I know that anything we as a community can do to come together to help wonderful people like this is something we should all do if we’re able to,” said frequent customer Heather Waldron.

“We had to borrow from family and friends. We cleaned out our checking and savings paying employees and the suppliers, etc, and I sold my three vehicles. I sold everything pretty much, my tools, I sold appliances, I sold anything I could to keep this place alive,” said Taste of Asia owner Bill Kellems.

Bill and Proaw Kellems have been running Taste of Asia for more than 15 years, but they said nothing prepared them for the obstacles they’ve faced over the last 18 months.

“25% of our business pre-COVID was catering and most of it was pharmaceutical, hospitals, doctor’s offices, things of that nature and obviously when the pandemic hit, nothing was allowed into the medical facilities, so it evaporated overnight,” said Kellems. “When we had to take away the dine-in part that was an additional problem, so for 15 months we were full time carry out.”

Despite traffic slowly picking up after the restaurant reopened for dine-in back in July, they're now facing other obstacles, like finding employees to serve customers and fill catering jobs, along with paying much higher supply costs.

“It’s been kind of a triple whammy of no employees, the increased cost, and then problems with employee shortages, so ugh it’s been very difficult to say the least,” added Kellems.

Bill, who’s already battling personal medical issues said he’s now working more than 15-hour days just to keep up amid the shortages.

Which is why one of their long-time customers started a GoFundMe to help the restaurant get back on their feet again.

“Our family has been a regular customer of Bill and Proaw since they opened their doors. We knew that if other people in our community would know the circumstances that they are withstanding that they would want to get involved and help and rally around this hard-working couple,” said Kim Reske, a long-time customer who started the campaign.

“We were just so blessed when someone offered to help us a little and give us that little push to get back so we feel pretty fortunate. The customers have been just, I mean I can’t even express how responsive they’ve been,” added Kellems.

In just a few weeks the GoFundMe campaign has already raised almost $4,000 out it’s $45,000 goal. You can donate here.

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