Bucktown restaurant Mable's Table reopens thanks to community

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dinner will be served at Mable's Table in Bucktown, where a loyal customer and dozens of donors have pitched in money to reopen the popular neighborhood restaurant in the midst of the pandemic.

"We're going to feed families tonight. Tomorrow we'll feed a few more. Saturday we will feed some more families," said Anthony Reyes, the owner of Mable's Table, which is named after his mother. "Hopefully by next week we are back up and running again."

"Mable's will have a second launch," he added, "a rebirth."

The restaurant on Cortland Avenue is reopening after the community came together and raised thousands of dollars.

"I'm truly overwhelmed. I didn't think something like this would happen to me," Reyes said.

Before the pandemic, Reyes said the restaurant was "thriving." But he remembers the day Gov. JB Pritzker made the announcement about closing indoor dining.

Reyes said COVID-19 was the first financial blow.

"Everything started compiling - bill after bill after bill," he recalled.

He had to lay off employees, but first he said he took all the restaurant's supplies - toilet paper, paper towels, and food - and gave them to his workers.

"I grabbed all the toilet paper I had here. I grabbed all the bottled water. I grabbed all the paper towels, mac and cheese," he recalled. "I grabbed anything I possibly could and packed it for all of my family members here. I gave it to them. I told them, 'Keep coming back and take what you need.'"

But that wasn't the end. Looters busted into the restaurant as well, smashing plates and spray painting his building.

"I looked up and said, 'God, when is this going to stop? Why is this happening to us?'" Reyes said.

Reyes started cleaning the broken glass, sweeping it up, when a loyal customer, Ron Officer, dropped by to chat. Reyes said they sat down and talked. Officer wanted to help.

"He comes walking in and he's like, 'What can I do to help you?'" Reyes recalled.

Unbeknownst to Reyes, Ron Officer went to the internet, setting up a GoFundMe page. Within weeks, it raised nearly $15,000 dollars. Dozens of people donated. The goal was $50,000.

Ron Officer pitched in the rest, reaching the $50,000 goal. He donated more than $35,000 to help the restaurant reopen.

"I've accumulated a few nickels," Officer said while sitting in the restaurant. "To be able to give back and help a friend, now I'm starting to well up. This is what it's all about."

Officer said the donation "came from the heart." At the time, Reyes wasn't aware of the large donation. Officer called Reyes and broke the news.

"I don't cry much, like I said," Reyes explained, tears in his eyes. "But I started tearing up. My daughter, she's 6 years old. She said, 'Papa why are you crying?' I said there are good people in the world."

So now Mable's employees are back to work, thanks to so many who care, including Ron Officer. "I can never be more thankful to someone in my life than you, my friend," Reyes told Officer, face-to-face.

And the restaurant's namesake - Mable - is happy too. Before opening, she dropped by to check on the restaurant's progress - and try the meatballs.

"She tasted the meatballs, because they're her signature things that we do here. 'Good, you didn't forget how to make them,'" Reyes laughed, remembering his mother's words. "No, I didn't forget."
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