‘I was almost ready to say I couldn’t do it anymore,’ small Michigan business owner reflects on donation from Oneida resident

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MUSKEGON, Mich. (WFRV) – An anonymous gift from a Wisconsin native has given one small Michigan business hope during these unprecedented times.

Lakeside Cafe, located in Muskegon, Michigan has been one of several small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Having to close its services twice now since the pandemic began, owner Ron Estlick says that each time it was harder to get back up.

“I was almost ready to say I couldn’t do it anymore,” shares Estlick.

Being forced to implement staff layoffs, Estlick, and two of his waitstaff members Michelle Policka and Arika Smith, who have been with Lakeside Cafe since it first opened in 2013, now work around the clock to keep this small business afloat.

“I have two people with me each day. I have a server taking orders and a cook cooking the food and I’m making the deliveries or help with the cooking…It’s been a tough year,” says Estlick.

However, this tough year was suddenly filled with a glimmer of hope on January 5, when Lakeside Cafe received an anonymous gift in the mail.

He describes that morning, “I saw an envelope that had Fed Ex packaging on it and I thought ‘this is weird’ so I grabbed the envelope and it was thick so I knew it wasn’t just a card and then when I opened it I saw there was money in it.”

The mysterious envelope contained exactly $302 and a message for the servers.

The letter read:

Lakeside waitstaff,

I live in Wisconsin and have been in the bar and restaurant industry most of my life. Watching you all go through this shutdown process has been almost painful. I’m sure more so for you obviously. I work full-time at a university here now but once in a while, I help out serving at a restaurant for a friend. I don’t really have extra money, but the money I make there is not budgeted. So I decided to pick one bar or restaurant to send each shifts tips to in my dad’s hometown of Muskegon. I spend a lot of time there, and I love Muskegon. I know it’s not much, but I was hoping you could divide it amongst your waitstaff for me. Please let them know people are thinking of them, we do care, and we see what you’re going through. Hang in there…

Estlick says receiving this message, “was like someone had put wind in my sails. You know it wasn’t about the dollar amount, but the gesture. It gave me hope, especially during these times.”

Grateful to this anonymous sender, Estlick shares, “I want to shake their hand, well maybe not shake their hand because of the pandemic, but I just want them to know how thankful I am.”

With the only information to go on about who the anonymous sender might be printed on the return address on the envelope, Estlick says, “The only thing we know is that they’re from Oneida, Wisconsin and so we want to send them a care package in return.”

Estlick says the care package would include a certificate, a t-shirt, and some other local favorite items as a small token of gratitude for the large impact this sender has made on lakeside Cafe.

Estlick hopes to re-open dine-in services at Lakeside Cafe soon, but until then the business remains open for takeout or delivery seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays through Tuesdays and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays.

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