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By Casey Nealon | Citizens Bank Staff
The Log Cabin Restaurant in Clinton, Connecticut, looks just as it sounds. There’s something about the sturdy wood building that communicates to its visitors that they’re in for a hearty meal that’s as natural as the logs that make up the restaurant — it’s an all-American experience with all-American portions.
The restaurant may have a unique charm, but their current situation isn’t unique to many restaurants around the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic and public places temporarily shutting their doors, The Log Cabin Restaurant is doing what many others are: only offering to-go orders, serving their meals exclusively in takeout containers, and waiting patiently for quarantine restrictions to lift.
Although this situation is nowhere near ideal, owner Fred Stango and his wife Susan recall another time when business was lacking. That was back in 1988, when they first opened their doors.
“Some days, it was just the two of us in the restaurant,” Susan says with a laugh.
Clinton is a shoreline town, sprinkled with marinas and beaches. Once the two outlet malls were added on both sides of the town, a lot of people started coming to the area in the summer. The Log Cabin Restaurant enjoys this influx of visitors, but when the tourists leave, the restaurant’s customer base are people who’ve come for years.
In the early years, locals started coming in and found they liked the cozy restaurant. So, they kept coming back. Fred and Susan know many of their patrons’ names, and rightfully so — the Stangos owe them their livelihood.
“It was about three or four years before it took off,” Fred says. “And people would come in and bring their kids, and we’ve seen them grow up.
“Now,” continues Fred, “they’re bringing in their own kids.”
Even though the current situation reminds them of when they first started, The Log Cabin Restaurant wasn’t prepared for the drop in customers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Stangos estimate they’re doing about a quarter of their usual business, with regulars helping out as much as they can by continuing to order. They may not get to enjoy the dining-in atmosphere, but they still get to enjoy the large portions, for which the restaurant is well-known (and it’s a promise Fred intends to keep, despite the constraints of a takeout box).
“They’re being very supportive,” Fred says.
But that’s not the only support the Stangos are receiving. The Log Cabin Restaurant received a $15,000 grant from Citizens Bank's Small Business Recovery Program. A collective $2 million was distributed to 134 local businesses as part of a larger $5 million initiative to support small businesses and their communities.
“We were so grateful and so happy,” Susan says. “It took a lot of pressure off.”
With the help of the grant money, all of The Log Cabin Restaurant’s employees are getting paid, even though they aren’t working their usual hours. Once all of the bills and usual expenses are paid, the Stangos still find room to give back to their community in Clinton.
“We do a lot of donations with the high school and churches and the entire local community,” Fred says. “We’ve been feeding the police department every Thursday for 10 weeks now.”
Susan even bought $500 worth of gift cards from a grocery store and donated them to Friends Helping Families, a local nonprofit that provides assistance to the people in need in Clinton. The Stangos were never self-righteous when talking about their contributions — their service comes from a true sense of community and their responsibility to give back.
“Everybody was being so nice to us, and generous,” Susan says. “It’s something that I should do, that I need to do. I like to help people who need it.”
The Stangos look forward to allowing people back into the restaurant on June 20, the tentative date for Connecticut’s second phase of reopening. The restaurant normally seats 110 people, but they’ll only be able to accommodate around half of that, with tables spaced out to keep everyone safe and socially distant.
The Log Cabin Restaurant’s situation is representative of lots of local eateries struggling from the pandemic, but the Stangos’ attitude toward their community is honorable. In addition to returning the love back into their town, the Stangos are showing what it truly means to pay it forward.
Join the Stangos in giving back by donating to The Log Cabin Restaurant.
And check out all the ways Citizens Bank is supporting local businesses and our communities.
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