Cobb restaurant owner sells car to make sure employees are paid

A Smyrna restaurant owner has sold her car to make sure her employees have a little cash in their pockets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Charity Salyers used $11,000 she received last week from selling her 2016 Ford Mustang to pay about eight Vittles Restaurant employees and cover the rent on the eatery at 2579 South Cobb Drive. The amount, she said, will be enough to “carry me forward for two months.”

“And I figured two months would give us enough time for these [COVID-19 case] numbers to go down…and be able to reopen,” she said.

Vittles transitioned to take-out-only service March 20 due to the pandemic. Salyers said proceeds at the restaurant plummeted from about $3,500 a day to roughly $300. Realizing that wasn’t going to cut it, Salyers said she closed soon after.

However, her restaurant’s primary customer base are older adults, and Salyers said they were “practically begging me to reopen the restaurant” because they didn’t want to eat fast food. She re-opened two weeks ago for take-out service, but cash flow was still a problem.

“Our regulars were coming, but it wasn’t enough to suffice,” she said.

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Last week, Salyers said she was wondering how she was going to cover rent and pay her employees. The only thing she could come up with was to sell her car.

“At that time, I just had to make a rash decision, and that was the only thing I could do to make enough money to carry myself forward for a few months and stay open,” she said. For now, two of her employees are giving her rides to and from her restaurant.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that restaurants will be allowed to reopen Monday for dine-in service. Salyers said she will meet with her staff this week to decide whether the restaurant should return to normal operations or stick with take-out service for an additional two weeks.

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Salyers' generosity also extends beyond the walls of her restaurant. She provides meals free of charge or at a reduced price for seniors on a fixed income. When schools closed March 16, she began a program that provided food to families in need. She's also collecting donations via GoFundMe to provide meals for healthcare workers at WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell.

“I just feel like we are here, we are not busy, I have the food, so why not use it to help the community and help the people who are fighting this virus for us,” she said. Her own children are among those on the front lines of the battle: Her son is an officer with the Marietta Police Department and her daughter works as a nurse at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

Vittles employee Stacy Wingard said Salyers’ act of selflessness isn’t a surprise because that’s part of her personality. While Salyers lost thousands of dollars selling her car, the welfare of her employees was her primary concern, Wingard said.

“She did that so she could keep the restaurant open, pay her employees and make sure we were all OK,” she said. “She goes without so other people don’t have to.”

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