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Cobb restaurant owner who sold car to pay employees gets new ride

Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers looks over her new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 outside her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers looks over her new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 outside her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

A Cobb County restaurant owner who sold her car to pay her employees during the pandemic will no longer have to worry about how she will get to work.

Savannah Volkswagen on Wednesday delivered a 2017 Toyota Rav4 to Charity Salyers, owner of Vittles Restaurant in Smyrna. The delivery came about a month after Salyers sold her 2016 Ford Mustang to pay about eight employees and cover the rent at her restaurant at 2579 South Cobb Drive.

Salyers said the Savannah-based car dealership reached out to her about a week after stories chronicling her decision aired on a local television news station and appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“They wanted to do what they could to get me another vehicle,” she said. “I was just shocked … and just grateful.”

Salyers said the dealership will cover her lease payments for about six months on the SUV, which has about 30,000 miles on it.

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Jennita Orr, finance manager at the dealership, said she saw Salyer’s story online and shared it with her general manager, Anthony Bryant.

“We’re always looking for stories like this and looking to give back,” she said. “We thought it was a great opportunity because you don’t have many people who would sacrifice themselves for others and in this time, we all need each other.”

Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers talks with customers in her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers talks with customers in her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Vittles, like many other restaurants, transitioned to takeout service in March after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close to dine-in customers. After experiencing a steep decline in business, Salyers said selling her Mustang was the quickest way to get enough money to keep the business afloat for a few months.

Since news articles about her decision were published, Salyers said business has picked up. She’s even had customers travel up to 40 miles to eat at Vittles. She was able to use that extra revenue to pay her employees and keep the business afloat.

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Following a state decision to allow restaurants and other businesses to reopen, Salyers reopened Vittles for dine-in service. The foot traffic into the restaurant has been steady, she said.

“It’s actually been a little busier than I expected,” she said, adding she’s following state health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on keeping customers and employees safe. “I expected people to be hesitant.”

Residents continue to donate to Salyers' efforts to provide free or reduced-priced meals to seniors on a fixed income. More than $7,000 has been contributed to a GoFundMe account used to provide meals to healthcare workers at WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell.

Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers looks over her new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 outside her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Vittles Restaurant owner Charity Salyers looks over her new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 outside her Smyrna restaurant Thursday, May 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Salyers said she’s grateful to the community for stepping in to make sure fewer hospital workers, senior citizens and other less fortunate residents have enough to eat during the pandemic. She also said she’s thankful to the people who helped keep her business going “during a time when I almost had to shut my doors.”

Orr said she hopes Salyers’ story inspires others to help their neighbors get through these unprecedented times.

“It’s just important for us to realize that we all need each other in this time,” she said. “It’s OK to lend a helping hand where you can. It’s not a time to be selfish.”


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