ASHTABULA, Ohio — At a back table inside Ashtabula’s Lakeway Restaurant, on Lake Avenue, sits 96-year-old Mary Marta. The Northeast Ohio native has been a regular at the Italian mom and pop eatery for quite some time.
“It’s been so long I can’t remember... many, many years," Marta said.
Every day you can find Marta in her regular spot for a very specific reason.
“It’s close to the coffee pot," she laughed.
When you see Marta inside the restaurant, you'll find her alone, but for years she would come three times a day with her late husband, John.
“We had a routine. We always got up and went to mass in the morning and then came here… and then home,” she said getting emotional reflecting on the memories made with her husband.
Marta is just one of many regulars at Lakeway.
“My dad bought it in 1953 it was," said David DeGeorge, the owner. DeGeorge took over the family restaurant after his father, Bruno, passed away.
He said the pandemic has brought on some really challenges times. The restaurant closed for two solid months and when they reopened, just like restaurants across Ohio, they're operating at half capacity. DeGeorge said revenue is down about 30%.
“It’s been hard, it’s been hard," he said. "We now do carryout, we're on DoorDash, we do curbside so that's helped us sustain."
But this week, DeGeorge got the call he never expected.
“I didn’t think it was ever going to materialize.”
DeGeorge received a FaceTime call from Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports and the Barstool Fund.
Barstool Sports is a digital media powerhouse. Portnoy launched the Barstool Fund in late December to help give small businesses a helping hand as long as the pandemic continues. He said he witnessed many owners struggling and knew something needed to be done.
So far the fund has raised more than $29 million helping to provide financial assistance to more than 160 businesses coast to coast.
During the FaceTime call, Portnoy said he's thrilled to be helping DeGeorge and his family business. “Businesses like you are exactly what we’re looking for, so we’re glad we can be there for you," he said. DeGeorge, in disbelief his restaurant was chosen, responded, "Thank you so much.”
DeGeorge said he credits his son, Anthony, for being chosen. Anthony submitted an email to the Barstool Fund, explaining his father's restaurant and the struggles they've faced in the last 10 months.
"I said what you did worked because he called me and he's going to help us and I can't believe he reached out to us," DeGeorge said to his son.
"I couldn't thank him enough. So cool that he would do that for me."
Portnoy also said, “We wanna help out make sure you have everything you need.”
DeGeorge, still in shock, said he feels truly blessed.
“No one has ever done anything like that for us. In the 65, 67 years we’ve been in business, that’s never happened. And for this happen was just truly a blessing that he was able to do that for us," he said.
He said the monthly installments will be put to good use immediately helping to pay his staff and other bills.
For Marta, she said she’s thrilled her favorite restaurant is getting the help they so desperately needed.
“Very important to them and to the people who come," she said.
"Little Ashtabula, who would've thought," DeGeorge said shaking his head.
Lakeway Restaurant is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Lake Avenue in Ashtabula.