From pandemic restrictions to a cancer diagnosis and a fire that forced the restaurant to close for months, the owner of Connie’s Café has been through quite a bit in the past two years.
When you walk into the quaint Vista café, it feels more like a home than a business. The walls are covered with signs, each displaying sayings like, "Count the memories not the calories,' and, "This is our happy place." There is even handmade art crafted by the owner’s grandkids lovingly hanging by the kitchen.
For the most part, everyone sits in the same room, unless they opt for the back patio, and Connie Ambacher faces tables with a smile. Ambacher is the proud owner of the restaurant and has been in business for seven years.
In February 2021 she was diagnosed with cancer, but this would turn out to only be the beginning of the year’s challenges.
“A lot has happened since then,” Ambacher said. “[I had] shoulder surgery and then I had gallstones, so it has been quite the rollercoaster.”
Ambacher shifted days of operation at the café to give her one day each week to rest while she was undergoing treatment. She chose Mondays to be closed, and planned to be there the other six days out of the week, but life had other plans.
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“First Monday that I closed, I said ‘Oh well, we’ll take Mondays off and we’ll do the treatments,’ and sure enough, that first Monday,” Ambacher said, while she recalled getting a phone call from the fire department.
She was told a fire started in the kitchen area. It damaged the majority of the restaurant and forced them to make repairs on equipment, the floor, walls, ceiling and more. Fortunately, no one was there at the time.
“What can you do?” Ambacher shrugged. “You learn when you get older that things happen and you just deal with it.”
Ambacher estimated that the damage from the smoke, fire and water neared a $300,000 total. What started as a two-week project turned into eight months of repairs. While Ambacher wasn’t able to serve customers in the café, she still found a way to do what she loves.
“I would get bored and so I kind of started making dinners for a couple of people, then a couple more,” Ambacher said. “For quite a while I just fed people because I need to cook. It’s what I do.”
Not only did she help feed customers who she said are either older and don’t cook or are struggling financially, but her customers also helped her. During the closure, she received private messages of support, offers to help and donations among other things. Ambacher said she would not have been able to reopen if it weren’t for the generosity of her community.
“I love my customers. They’re more than just customers,” Ambacher said while she fought back tears. “It all worked out though in the end.”
Business was booming when they reopened in November, but it has since tapered off because of the increase of COVID-19 cases.
“It’s back to being a bit of a struggle right now, just because it has slowed down so much,” Ambacher said.
Ambacher said she added outdoor seating behind the restaurant for those who are more comfortable dining outside. It is open six out of seven days each week, with extra staff on weekends.
“I’m ready and I’m waiting,” Ambacher added.