May 20, 2024

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Free For All Food

Sparta shows big support for local restaurants

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — In a small town like Sparta, supporting local businesses is a big deal, which is why the village is putting on its first-ever “to-go” style restaurant week.

The Chamber of Commerce launched the social media campaign earlier this week, promoting local dishes and specials served up across a dozen local restaurants.

Chamber director Elizabeth Morse, told News 8 it’s been exciting to see the community’s enthusiastic response as ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have taken a real toll on the village’s small business community.

“These are not just some businesses with a name on a sign in a strip mall or something. These are your friends,” Morse said. “I’ve known these people for literally decades.”

For this reason, Morse said their hardships are her hardships — a sentiment shared by most everyone in the tight-knit town.

Morse told News 8 the recent closure of local restaurant, Big Joe’s, was heartbreaking for the whole community.

“It’s so emotional,” she said.

It has also served as a reminder to support the local spots that are still open, even if it means picking up the order to-go.

Just a few days into the village’s first-ever restaurant week, many families kicked off the weekend by picking up a pizza from Angela’s.

Angela’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1983 by Sam Candela and his family after moving to the U.S. from Italy.

“I came here when I was 16, so now it has been 36 years here,” Candela said. “Sparta is like my family.”

Candela’s actual family helps run the place.

“I have my brother-in-law, my brother, my son, my wife, my mom —all here,” Candela said.

Although revenue is down and their dining room is closed, Candela said together — they’ll survive.

“We got a good support from the people in Sparta,” Candela’s friend and employee Joe Badalamente said. “They try to keep it all in Sparta, which is nice. They don’t want to drive to downtown Grand Rapids or Alpine.”

Down the street, another family-run restaurant taking part in the chamber’s social media campaign was also busy filling to-go orders and serving up food to a handful of patrons seated in the outdoor patio area.

“We’re hands-on, we’re still bagging food, we’re still mixing drinks,” said Trini Piaz, co-owner of Downtown Trini’s. “I think a lot of that is a testament of why we still do have that following. Because we do put in the hours and the time.”

Trini and his brother Joe telling News 8 there’s no place they’d rather ride out the current COVID-19 restrictions facing the restaurant industry than in the community they’ve come to call home.

“The small community versus the big city,” Trini said. “During hard times like this, whether it’s a restaurant or whether it’s another store, everybody comes together in a group. The community is so strong.”

Sparta Restaurant Week TO GO runs through Saturday, Jan. 16. More details and daily specials can be found online.