By Krista Pfunder
The South County community of Friendship is living up to its name, stepping up to support the new owner of a local small business that was vandalized over its COVID-19 precautions.
A customer at La Bella Italia Restaurant—angry that he was asked to put on a face mask before being allowed to place an order—punched a hole in the restaurant’s plexiglass shield installed between customers and employees at the front counter.
When Channing Duffy of Deale stopped in for lunch one day later, she found out about the incident from an employee.
“This was the last thing they needed,” says Duffy who, like the restaurant owner, is also new to the area.
“I asked how business was and they said it is down and they had to let go of employees,” she says. “Then the employee pointed to the hole in the plexiglass and told me that an angry customer had punched the glass after being reminded of their mask policy.”
Wanting to show the owner and employees at La Bella Italia that not all neighbors are angry over the restaurant’s safety efforts, Duffy went home and posted to Facebook about the incident.
“I wanted them to know a little bit of light in terms of the community that supports them,” Duffy says. “Most of the comments were very positive and I decided to try to actually show support.”
She started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to cover the cost of a new plexiglass shield. “I decided to set the goal at $500 because I read that GoFundMe will match that amount,” Duffy says.
The campaign quickly raised $575 and Duffy presented the unsuspecting owner of La Bella Italia with a check to pay for a new plexiglass shield last week.
“I took him a check for $575 and he was certainly surprised to see it,” Duffy says. “I’m still waiting to see if GoFundMe matches the donations.”
The owner, who wishes to be known simply as Ilario, says he too looks forward to when business returns to normal and no masks are required, but is grateful to customers for rallying around the restaurant in its time of need.
“Thank you to all these wonderful people for their support,” Ilario says. “Please come see us.”
Ilario says they will replace the plexiglass soon but until then, there is a visual reminder of the community’s support: an anonymous customer pasted a cutout heart next to the jagged break in the plexiglass.