Army veteran Lou Mascherino opened the Veterans Café and Grille since 2009. Since then, the cafe has been a popular meeting spot for veterans. Former service members from all around the country make their way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sharing their meals under Mascherino’s collection of military service memorabilia.
Sadly, ever since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic swept through the U.S. in spring, the front doors of the Veterans Café and Grille have been locked shut. With no one to serve, and no money coming in, Mascherino has been feeling the pinch.
According to WMBF News, Mascherino tried offering curbside pick-up but it wasn’t enough to cover operating expenses. That’s when made the tough decision to close until further notice.
Mascherino has spent well beyond a decade honoring the sacrifices made by U.S. service members, and they have not forgotten. On the first day of May, several dozen supporters came out to the cafe with donations to help keep he business afloat.
“It’s unreal, it’s unbelievable,” Mascherino told WMBF News. “People have been coming since 8:30 this morning (Friday). They just keep coming by. I did not realize this many people in the community felt this way about us. We’re used to doing it for them and now they’re out here doing it for us it makes us feel really good.”
The donations continued from the morning through mid-afternoon, a humbling sight. Mascherino is grateful for the outpouring of support, which added up to more than $22,000 in donations.
The money will help Mascherino and the restaurant staff weather the pandemic with hope of reopening once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and the Veterans Café and Grille’s doors open once more.
With one of the largest and more unique collections of military memorability outside of a museum, the cafe has amassed a loyal collection of fans. Rest assured, many of them will be looking for a table when Mascherion welcomes them back.
“We’re probably one of the only places in the country that does this, the inside is loaded with memorabilia from all different branches of the service. We go from WWI up unto the present day and it’s just a place some just come and look and learn history some call us the mini military museum here, so that’s what it’s all about I guess,” Mascherion said.
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.