Nineteen years ago on Christmas Eve, William Brogna walked into a restaurant in Juno Beach, Fla. called Crazy Cuban. Today, at seventy-four years old, Brogna owns the restaurant, renamed as One Way Café. After all these years Brogna says there is only one thing that keeps his business running: loyal customers.
Brogna’s wife often says to him, “Billy, you go to work everyday and sit in the same four walls.” Brogna says, “It’s not the walls, it’s the people that come in.”
Seven months ago in mid-March the coronavirus pandemic began to shut down businesses, one after the other. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry has suffered the most significant sales and job losses since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
“With this COVID there’s opportunity to fail.” Brogna said. “People are afraid to come out and eat. This pandemic destroyed the restaurant business.”
In the beginning of the pandemic One Way Café had to be closed for two months. After it reopened it was only to go orders and curbside pickup. According to Brogna, this was only thirty percent of usual business.
Then in August, One Way Café was shut down for most of the month due to Brogna’s underlying heart issues.
“It was no vacation.” Brogna said.
He reopened the restaurant at the end of August. He always wears a mask and keeps a distance between himself and customers.
As an Italian, food means everything to Brogna.
“When you're Italian you live for food. You’re thinking about what you’re gonna have for dinner at seven in the morning.” he said.
Brogna knows that his restaurant is not mobbed every minute. “For a place that sits twenty-four people, even with this COVID,” Brogna says, that it is okay.
After nineteen years Brogna knows that it is the relationships with customers that matter.
“People don’t only come here for the food, they come in here for the comradery.”
Brogna hopes to keep his business running in the future.
“If this pandemic is a little more lenient we could succeed and go back to the way it was. But there’s no guarantee.” Brogna said.