Montclair Diner gave back to the pandemic. Now he receives a grant of $ 50,000
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGH MENA
Throughout the pandemic, the owner and staff of Montclair Diner mobilized to help a community in need. Now that generosity is being repaid via a $ 50,000 grant from Chase Sapphire.
Eliot Mosby, a former United Airlines executive, bought the restaurant in 2019 from longtime owner Gus Makris. He had owned the restaurant for less than a year when news of pandemic closures hit in March 2020. Restaurants were ordered to suspend on-site catering and were only allowed to offer take-out food. .
Mosby said he learned of the closure on a Sunday, one of the restaurant’s busiest days. He said he saw a huge drop in the number of customers arriving that day. For the next few days, Mosby says, Montclair was like a ghost town.
Even though the restaurant had to cut its hours, it remained open, Mosby said. He did not lay off any staff; many have instead helped to adjust to a new way of doing business.
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“It was all the practical deck,” Mosby said. ” I delivered. [Executive] chef Gus Moya delivered. The servers delivered. And we really wanted to go out and make sure the people we serve in the community and our customers were okay. ”
Mosby said the restaurant has also changed its menu, moving to “family-style” means, where a single order can serve four to five people for less money than ordering separate meals. He said family style meals are still available.
“We made sure we had a fairly comprehensive menu just because we knew people would be fed up with eating at home and they want more variety,” Mosby said.
Mosby also said the restaurant, with the help of family and friends, was able to raise $ 10,000 in donations from March through June 2020 to feed frontline workers. He said the restaurant has partnered with local organizations such as the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, Montclair Emergency Services for Hope and Women for Progress.
“We would buy food, cook it, and cook catering style meals in hospitals,” Mosby said. The restaurant would serve approximately 25 to 100 people in a given hospital.
These efforts have benefited workers at Newark University Hospital, East Orange Hospital, St. Joseph University Medical Center in Paterson, and Mountainside Hospital in Montclair. The restaurant also fed firefighters, police and paramedics.
The restaurant worked with community groups (Chase Sapphire highlighted its partnerships with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and St. John’s Church in West Orange) as well as with school systems to feed families who had been financially affected by the pandemic. Restaurant workers prepared meals for them and delivered groceries.
“So we did a lot of things to make sure people were eating around this time,” Mosbly said.
According to Chase Sapphire, Montclair Diner fed 1,500 needy families before and during the pandemic.
In June 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing alfresco dining. For the Montclair Diner, this meant using the lane along the building. It was decorated with Edison lights, a garden, and a mural. The restaurant has also partnered with local jazz bands, which continue to play every Sunday.
“That genre took on its own presence, because now we’re still doing all of these traditions that we started at the start of the pandemic, and they’re still working,” Mosby said. “We really made it a cool, funky space for customers to eat out.”
News of the grant came as a surprise, Mosby said. He said a long-time customer nominated the restaurant for the grant and submitted the application on his behalf.
“I was really excited and just grateful because the things we did during the pandemic [were] not to get that Chase grant or to get other rewards that we have received, ”Mosby said. “We really did it because we knew we had to step up and do our part in the community.”
The first thing he did with the money?
“Although [our workers] were still paid during the COVID pandemic, with the reduced hours they weren’t getting home their entire paycheck, ”Mosby said. “So we made sure to give them a bonus first. ”
The restaurant also invested in new equipment – a new iron and new refrigeration. Finally, the restaurant will undergo some renovations,
Mosby said the restaurant will continue to help the community. The restaurant is in partnership with a Adopt a family launched by a resident of Orange Ouest and supported by volunteers from l’Entraide Montclair. It will host a “tree of angels”, where customers can collect cards listing the items selected families need.
And restaurants will continue to provide food to families in need.
“Families who are in need or who still have one or two parents who are not yet working, we will identify them with other organizations and make sure we provide them with meals,” Mosby said. “And if there are people who want to donate meals, and that also happened last year, [they] can call and they can pay for meals for families. We will make sure they get to the families who need them.
Chase Sapphire, announcing the grant, also noted that the restaurant employs students from the Montclair community, helping them with work and developing their professional skills.
Mosby said the Montclair community has been welcoming from the day he took over the restaurant.
“Montclair, to me, is a type of community that gives back, especially when they see you care and give back,” Mosby said. “And even though I’m not from Montclair, I feel like I’m part of the community now. It was so much love and a [outpouring] Support. It was very refreshing to see that. There are still communities that can come together when needed. “