Restaurant stays positive amid the pandemic and passing of owners

This is a copy of the original article posted by KOLO 8 on Jan. 18, 2021. The original article can be found HERE.

Many businesses have struggled to keep their heads above water because of COVID-19. The family-owned Casale’s Halfway Club is no stranger to this and has taken more than one blow.

Casale’s Halfway Club has been in the community for decades and has become a favorite to many. When the original shutdown happened in March, the restaurant had to quickly shift gears into territory they had never been before.

“We all pulled together and did what needed to be done. With Tony’s help, we fostered a takeout business which was really a service line we never had before and that is what sustained us through the shutdown,” Maria Rogers, co-owner of Casale’s Halfway Club, said.

Because of the size of the restaurant, Rogers explained they had to cut their capacity down significantly to adhere to the guidelines.

“When we reopened in June, in a small place like this, we pretty much have no choice but to cut back to 25% if we were going to honor the strict guidelines set by the Governor of social distancing. So when the new mandate came to shut down to 25%, we were already there,” Rogers said.

The restaurant was owned by Inez Stempeck at the time, who Rogers explained started to step back to coming in only four days a week a few years ago. She said Inez’s son, Tony Stempeck, and his daughter Haley stepped in to take care of the day to day operations.

Inez Stempeck died in late September. A few weeks following her death, Tony Stempeck died due to COVID-19 complications, which took the family by surprise.

“I feel really fortunate that we were able to give my grandmother the send-off she deserved at 93 but my dad we were not expecting. So that has probably been the hardest for us to deal with,” Haley Stempeck, co-owner of Casale’s Halfway Club, said.

Stempeck said she grew up in the restaurant and has been working there almost her entire life. She was not expecting to have to take over at the young age of 29 but said there is no place she would rather be.

“It feels like that little hole that’s inside of you from losing those family members isn’t quite so big, so deep, when you’re here surrounded by people that love you and are coming in here to support you,” Stempeck said.

She explained navigating this new role while also trying to honor all of the guidelines and restrictions has been challenging, but they have been able to pull through because of their family and the help of the community.

“Even though it is incredibly sad to move forward without my grandmother and my father, within three weeks of time, we are just doing what we know how to do best, which is this,” Stempeck said.

Stempeck and Rogers both said the community has continued to play a role in their healing process. Because of the unconditional support, they say they will be able to carry on and keep the family name alive.

“Together with our mom, he positioned us in such a way that we will carry on. Haley is taking over this business a full generation before we thought she was going to have to. But the good news is, she learned quickly, she learned well and she’s got this,” Rogers said.