CADILLAC – From almost not having enough money to pay the bills to breaking sales records six months in a row, the After 26 Depot Cafe has been through quite a roller coaster ride since the start of last year.
Managing Director Kelly Hondorp said during the period of closure or tight occupancy levels in 2020 and early 2021 things were getting pretty risky for them, but community support never faltered and they did. brought through the worst of the pandemic.
Much of that support last year came in the form of an annual donation of $ 26,000 from DTE Energy, which Hondorp said couldn’t have come at a better time for them.
While the donation was truly a godsend last year, Hondorp said the DTE grant still plays a huge role in their budgeting process.
Since 2021, DTE Energy has donated $ 224,500 to the Depot, with the amount of $ 26,000 coming each year since 2014.
Hondorp said they seek help from the DTE every year and use the money for various expenses.
This year, Hondorp said it used the money to replace faulty and worn out kitchen equipment. They also invested some of the money in the After 26 Depot Cafe Music Festival, making DTE a Gold Level Sponsor.
In recent years, Hondorp said he used the money to install a new entrance, improve his security system, buy a new point-of-sale computer system, and hire a general manager (who ended up being Hondorp), between others. .
With much of their staff made up of project workers cleaning tables, welcoming guests and doing the dishes, Hondorp said they are also using the money to pay salaries, which are higher for After 26 qu ‘a typical restaurant.
In Michigan, after 26 years, adults with developmental and cognitive impairments can no longer attend public school.
For these individuals and their families, what to do next can be a real challenge, which is where After 26 comes in.
Lynette Dowler, vice president of public affairs for DTE Energy and president of the DTE Foundation, said she selected After 26 for the grant each year because she sees the organization as a “force for growth in the community.”
“We just love the job they do,” Dowler said. “This is a great opportunity for the employees. Cadillac is bigger thanks to the involvement of After 26 in the community.
Dowler added that the After 26 board is a “genuinely engaged board that cares about employees, management, staff and customers.”
But board members and management aren’t the only ones who appreciate the DTE grant and other community support.
“The money helps me keep a job,” said employee Nicole Reynolds. “I love working at The Depot because I love working, cleaning bathrooms, seeing my friends and making money.
Since the restaurant reopened in February, Hondorp said it has seen an explosion of customers walk through their doors, leading to the best six months in the organization’s history.
They have been so successful lately that they have decided to give something back to the community.
Until November, Hondorp said 5% of its sales would be set aside and donated to nonprofit groups and programs in the area, including Habitat for Humanity, the Cadillac Area YMCA, Project Christmas and Special Olympics.
“It’s a really big goal for us,” said Hondorp. “We’ve been trying to focus on giving back lately.
Hondorp said they would likely continue these fundraising efforts for the remaining winter months.