CRESTLINE — When Joel Ronk purchased Main Street Grill in Crestline in December 2019, he didn’t know what the future soon held when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area in early 2020.
All he knew was that he wanted to purchase the business to allow the employees to keep their jobs.
After Ronk purchased the restaurant, he handed over the reins to his girlfriend Julie Rhodes, who manages the day-to-day operations.
“I used to work here years ago when Connie and Jerry Payne owned it — Hunger Paynes,” Rhodes said. “I was a server, I learned to cook and do the dishes and they taught me how to do the register and all that stuff. It’s just come full circle. If I didn’t have Connie Payne as my boss, I wouldn’t have done it because everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from her and Barb Poole.”
Like many area restaurants, Main Street Grill, 819 East Main Street in Crestline, struggled when COVID struck and they had to close down the restaurant for two months.
“When we first took over business was great and then it hit and it wasn’t too bad, but then month after month with COVID it got worse. It was a big change and was tough,” Rhodes said.
Though they hunkered down and made it through to be able to open again later in the spring of 2020, there were still some financial burdens the restaurant was facing. That’s about the time Rhodes heard about the Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 relief grants being offered.
“There was a lady at GFS who works there and she just happened to tell me about it,” Rhodes explained. “At that time it was a struggling point — business had dipped down and I didn’t want to borrow any money. I got the paperwork and filled it all out and Joel asked if I was going to mail it and I told him ‘no, I’m going to hand deliver this and I did.’”
Rhodes said once the governor shut down indoor dining, they did carry-out for a little bit.
“But there was not enough support because people are tight on money everywhere,” she said. “So, we discussed it and decided to shut down until we could reopen all the way.”
Rhodes noted they made sure all the employees were able to get their unemployment benefits. With all the food that was still stocked on the shelves, Rhodes said she gave all the perishables to her employees to take home and immediately put the rest of the food in the freezer.
Even though times got a little rough over those two months, Rhodes said they never even considered closing down the business for good.
“No, it wasn’t an option,” she said. “I don’t quit that easily. I thought about it for a hot second, but then no. It’s a mountain we have to climb together. It is what it is, it’s a whole new world we live in now.”
Rhodes said they opened back up in May 2020 and business was pretty steady again.
“It’s going really good,” she said. “I can’t complain.”
Main Street Grill ultimately was awarded a $7,000 chamber grant and Rhodes said it helped immensely with some of the funds going to payroll and other monthly bills.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I’ve never been so grateful in my life. It was a big relief.”
Main Street Grill is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
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