Longtime and popular Baytown eatery, Casa Ole, 1602 Beaumont Road, was admittedly not doing much business as of recent times, but a pandemic certainly didn’t help.
Owner since 2003, Cyndi McFalls admits that, with the COVID-19 threat having already done plenty of damage with people staying home in mass and combined with Tuesday’s Stay Home-Work Safe order passed down by Harris County officials, events have put the business on critical.
That’s when a gofundme page was created Monday by Cheyenne Lewis to support Casa Ole.
“Someone – I don’t know the person – set up the gofundme page,” McFalls said. “This is nothing I set up. They called and asked if they could do that. I had a personal emergency and said I would talk to her later, but she went ahead and posted it, which is fine. I would never ask people for money during this time.
“I will give all the money for employees who aren’t working – put it in a pool and use that to help them get along. The gofundme page was totally sweet and generous. I don’t know much about Cheyenne. She said I was totally generous and helpful to her niece and I don’t know who that is. She apparently knows me.”
McFalls’ manager Mike Carrillo and herself worked all last week with one cook and people gave them money for their work – which was shared with the staff.
“I am trying to help them get some grocery money,” McFalls said.
“I am trying to stay open as long as we can, but we are obviously losing money. We are not a part of the big corporate chain and we haven’t been really busy anyway. I am going to do it until the bitter end.”
Lower prices have been a main attraction for Casa Ole and with the food being well received based on dozens of online reviews, the restaurant was a hit in January and February for years after people tapped out on their holiday money.
“Right after spring break we are busy too because they spend all their money and they come here because we are affordable,” McFalls said.
“Now people are either more affluent and going somewhere else or totally broke and not spending money at all which are other possibilities. We are slower than we’ve ever been.”
The restaurant’s 40th anniversary is set for the month of April and McFalls has celebratory plans set with the menu, but first it’s about keeping the business alive.
“Obviously, that’s not going to go down right now,” she said.
“I am worried about my employees, a lot of them have families. I and Mike work for free. The rest of them, if we stay open, we can give the others a shift or two.”
McFalls added that she has had to pay out of her pocket at times to keep the business going.
Many of her current employees have worked at the restaurant for approximately 20 years or more.
“This is not just a job for them, we are family,” McFalls said.
“I am trying hard to help everybody. We will keep it open as long as we can. Last week we made a third of what we normally do. Hopefully people will someday get into their old routines.
“Where we were last week, we won’t be able to keep it open.”
McFalls added she might not be able to reopen even after the pandemic concerns lessen and she is able to run Casa Ole within its normal schedule.
Casa Ole is open for takeout and delivery, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The gofundme page, which has raised $205 of a $5,000 goal as of Tuesday for Casa Ole can be found at https://www.gofundme.com. Search Casa Ole on the homepage to find the link for the fundraiser.