But, restaurant owners say, it is not thankless. In the aftermath of business devastation, they have found both unanticipated emotional support from the community and a chance for reinvention.
For Bill Lumadue, patriarch of the family behind longtime Silver Spring Township landmark Visaggio’s Ristorante & Castel Castagna, the journey began in November 2013 with a blaze apparently sparked by a faulty fan.
“It’s a tragedy,” he says, describing daily life so changed as to be disorienting. “You watch your whole life burn.”
The Visaggio facilities held more than just standard restaurant accoutrements. Lumadue’s wife, Rosemary Visaggio-Lumadue, who is Visaggio’s president and executive chef, is an avid antiques collector, and her treasures, along with memorabilia from the restaurant’s decades in business, were much-loved features of the place.
And then there were all the business records. They had to ask their financial institution to reconstruct the last year’s transactions, but even after receiving that information, they have pending reservations, bills and deposits to deal with.
That’s the bad news. The silver lining, Lumadue says, is a rallying he can scarcely believe. For two weeks, someone anonymously had full-course meals delivered to their house. People told them to keep deposits for events Visaggio’s is now unable to host. Someone has offered to supply antique Italian furniture for the rebuilt restaurant. Loyal customers have spontaneously proffered money and favorite memories.
“It makes you want to cry, and I’m not a crybaby,” Lumadue says.
Taking care of the crew
The employees, some of whom have worked at Visaggio’s for decades, acted like family when they heard the bad news, Lumadue says. For many it was a part-time second job, he says, and they’re making enough at those other jobs that they can’t collect unemployment from Visaggio’s. For the few full-timers who haven’t gotten replacement jobs, he says, the “really good” business interruption insurance should pay unemployment, but going through the determination process takes time.
And, Lumadue says, there are some employees who would like to get interim jobs but can’t because they’re being honest and telling prospective employers that they plan to return when Visaggio’s reopens.