Owners of longtime Eastlake restaurant turn pandemic experience into opportunity to help kids, veterans

Posted: Jun 30, 2020 / 12:42 PM EDT Updated: Jun 30, 2020 / 01:44 PM EDT

EASTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — The last few months have been tough for the owners of a long-time Eastlake restaurant.

LouLou and Joe Karim, owners of Flavors on the Vine Family Restaurant, 34860 Vine St., purchased the 50-year-old business back in 1997. Their chef has worked at the restaurant for 23 years, and one of their servers for 45.

“We know the area, everybody by name,” Joe said. “It’s a wonderful feeling. We’re all like family.”

When they were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was rough for them financially. They were able to open back up June 1. But that period in between gave them time to think about how hard the pandemic is for their customers and community, too.

So they decided to kick off their summer by donating a portion of their sales to area children and disabled veterans.

“We came up with this idea during the pandemic crisis,” said LouLou. “We had lots of emotion during that tough time, and then we got help from the government. And we want to show the government and the community that we appreciate that. We want now to turn it to the community.”

Starting July 1, the restaurant, which serves home-cooked comfort food dishes, will donate 25 percent of their sales every Wednesday through Aug. 7 to their local Grab and Go Lunch summer feeding program.

Then, on July 8, 25 percent of their food sales between 5 and 8 p.m. will go to local disabled veterans through Operation S.T.A.T., an organization that helps hospitalized veterans, at a fundraiser in their restaurant.

Eastlake Councilman Mike Zuren, who was instrumental in helping the restaurant plan the fundraiser, will be there dressed as Joe DiMaggio. Timberlake Councilwoman Sherri Falkenberg will be dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

“It will be fun, and at the same time we’ll be helping the community,” said Joe.

Helping those in the community is not new to the couple.

They’ve done several programs and events in the past to help those in need. And they never turn anyone away at the restaurant. Anyone who needs a meal will always get one from the restaurant, whether they pay for it or not.

“A percentage of our customers ask for a discount,” said Joe. “We felt like a bunch of people in the community, they have it really bad. Even with the help they have, but it’s still not enough.”

Both LouLou and Joe said they know what it’s like to be hungry, as they both are from the Middle East.

“Our country struggled from hunger, and we knew the feeling,” said LouLou. “If you are hungry and you don’t have the support, it’s very tough.”

“If you are in need, we are happy to help you,” said Joe.

For more on the events/fundraising efforts, click here.