CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The pandemic is pushing yet another Central New York business to the end of an era.
A year ago, NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla visited The Chickadee Human Eatery in Cicero. The restaurant had become a safe haven for those struggling to get a meal with their Pay It Forward Post-It Wall.
Now, a year later, Nicole takes us back, as the owners get ready to close their doors for good, just shy of a four-year milestone.
“I thought I failed until my wife and all my customers reminded me of what we did,” said David Caramanna, the owner of the restaurant.
For a year, Caramanna has been giving free meals to anyone in need thanks to donations from Central New Yorkers filling his Pay It Forward Wall.
Eventually, though, it takes a toll. Caramanna has been averaging 70 hour weeks, not making enough money, and still giving to others. He’s out of gas.
“The physical, and emotional, and financial strains of running a business that’s not paying the bills,” he said.
Throughout this past year, even though the restaurant was struggling, Caramanna still found a way to help others.
During the pandemic, The Chickadee made several donations to nurses, police officers, and firefighters. Caramanna also fed kids for free.
For the past five months, he’s been donating 60-70 sandwiches every Saturday to We Rise Above The Streets and as they say, it takes a village. Area organizations and businesses have been donating money so Caramanna could cook the meals to donate.
The community also stepped up with donations to go up on the wall, which is a symbol of community kindness Caramanna hopes will live on, long after he closes his doors.
I’ve read all of the posts on social media, 500 of them saying ‘what can we do, can you stay open’ and it makes you feel like you did something, you touched somebody.”David Caramanna
The toughest part is how close they came to breaking even. What he’ll miss the most? His customers.
One of his customers started a GoFundMe page for the restaurant, and while Caramanna appreciates the generosity of the community, he doesn’t want the money.
“I prayed on it, Saturday night church, and that’s when I realized I think there’s another avenue that God has set for me so, we’ll see where it takes me,” Caramanna said.
Whatever he does next, if it’s anything like his mission this past year, Caramanna will be doing something for the good of others.
The Chickadee will close in the next two weeks. Then, on April 24, they’ll have one last chicken BBQ tailgate party in the parking lot so the staff can say goodbye to their customers. They will likely have four waves of food throughout the day.
Caramanna will announce more details about the BBQ tailgate on the Chickadee Facebook page.