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Restaurants trying to stay afloat

Local restaurants continue to do whatever it takes to keep their eateries afloat.

Since customers aren’t allowed to eat in at their favorite establishments, restaurants have seen a steady increase in takeout orders.

That’s been the case at Lengyel’s Restaurant in Nesquehoning, where owner Mary Lynn Lengyel said the business has “definitely” seen an increase in its takeout orders.

“A lot of our customers are supporting us,” Lengyel said. “They all know that any restaurant is hurting; all of our customers that we have are people that would come in.”

Lengyel said the business opened in 1960 when it was run by her parents, and to this day, it remains family run, a fact that’s not lost on its regular customers.

“Ours is just a lot of local people; we get people from Palmerton, Pottsville, Tamaqua,” she said. “People still come because they know it’s the same people, it’s always good, it tastes the same as it did 10 years ago.”

Lengyel said chief among its top sellers are its pierogies.

“We sell out on them by Friday,” she said. “So now we’re making extras so that we have for Saturday.”

The restaurant also sells homemade soup and halupkis, along with Delmonico platters and sandwiches, and seafood like broiled haddock, brooked trout, Dungeness crab legs, and lobster tails.

“We’re selling basically just about everything we have on our menu,” Lengyel said. “Basically they’re ordering everything.”

Lengyel said the business is grateful for the patronage it continues to receive.

“We have decent takeout right now, which we’re thrilled with that we can still stay open,” she said. “We’re happy with what we have, because it could be worse.”

Events canceled

It’s been much the same at Basile’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Tamaqua, according to owner Paola Basile.

“We definitely took a hard hit because we’re an open dine-in restaurant,” Basile said. “Normally we do some takeouts; we also do banquets, showers, funerals, we just renovated our backroom in February, and had events we had to cancel until further notice.”

But, Basile said the business that’s been in operation for 11 years has been able to make due.

“We’re making it work; my husband (Vito) and I are really dedicated to this restaurant and do whatever we have to do to keep it afloat, make sure our employees have a job.”

“Our main thing now is just getting the mortgage paid and the bills paid just so our employees have a place to come back to work.”

Basile said the business typically has anywhere from 15-20 employees working per day, but had to lay off all but five.

“All of our employees understand, and they’re willing to work with us,” she said. “It’s a good family atmosphere, and (everyone’s) doing what they can to help.”

The restaurant continues to sell its staple menu items via takeout, but pizza is the big seller right now.

“It just seems to be a lot more pizzas lately; you can field a family with a pizza and it’s kind of less expensive,” she said. “Dinners have obviously dropped a little more with people losing their job, trying to do the most economical.”

In the meantime, Basile said the business continues to follow all the health guidelines.

“We take all the necessary precautions that we can to protect ourselves and our customers,” she said. “Whatever we need to do to make sure everybody is safe.”

Masks, gloves and hand sanitizing has been a priority.

“We even have a jar with clean pens; and after they’re used, we put them in a dirty jar, sanitize them,” she said. “It’s just different from what we’re used to.”

Basile expressed her gratitude toward their loyal customers, and noted that it’s important for people to continue supporting small businesses as they employ many local people.

“We want to thank our customers who still continue to support us,” she said.

Delivering to shut-ins

“We’re struggling; it’s really, really hard,” said Donna Kemfort, manager of the Boulevard Drive-In Restaurant in Lehighton.

Most of the workers have been laid off. However, Kemfort assured the restaurant’s doors are open for its customers, just as they’ve been since opening in the 1950s.

“We have a lot of elderly people that come in and they live by themselves, and we’re delivering to them,” she said. “They just give us a call, they give us their address and we run it out to them.”

Kemfort said the business has delivered not only to customers in Lehighton, Weissport, Franklin Township and Mahoning Township, but also further out like Beltzville, East Penn Township, and Palmerton.

“Business is really, really slow; a lot of people are staying home, which they should be so we can get through this quicker,” she said. “We’re pretty much going just about anywhere, probably within the 10-mile radius.”

Kemfort said customers have been ordering the usual suspects, such as cheesesteaks, hot dogs and cheeseburgers.

“We’ve done some platters ... compared to the way it was before, the types of food they’re ordering are basically the same,” she said. “Platters, we are getting some of those, but it was definitely a higher volume when we had the dining room open.”

In the meantime, Kemfort said the business continues to operate as best it can on a day-to-day basis.

“We’ve talked to some of our suppliers; we’ve worked some deals out with them so that we can continue to get product in the building, that’s pretty much how we’ve done it,” she said. “We really appreciate our customers supporting us.”

So, too, does Macaluso’s Restaurant & Cocktail Bar in Nesquehoning, where owner Tonimarie Macaluso is about to begin her 33rd year running the business, which will turn 50 in June 2021.

Macaluso said the restaurant has been selling its dinners, as well as from its catering menu.

“As far as takeout business, it’s doing well for this unusual time,” Macaluso said. “That’s the best way to describe this.”

Unfortunately, Macaluso said the business has had to lay off the vast majority of its employees.

“Probably about 90 percent of my workforce, about 25 people,” she said. “I miss them.”

In times like this, Macaluso stressed the need for businesses to do what they do best.

“You go back to your roots where you started, pull your bootstraps up, and you go to work,” she said. “Just remember what got you to here, and just redo it.”

Macaluso said she hopes things can turn around for the better.

“You want them to be better, wish for better times than before,” she said. “When the dust settles, I hope everybody patronizes everyone and we get back to doing what we did before.”

Brenda Conarty of Lehighton picks up her takeout order from the Boulevard Drive-In in Lehighton last week. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
Mother and daughter team Tonimarie Macaluso, left, and Antonina Zeleniak work the kitchen at Macaluso's Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in Nesquehoning. The restaurant is staying busy with takeout and delivery orders. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS