FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- For small business owners, the pandemic has been make-or-break, especially for one Fayetteville establishment forced to close because of staffing shortages. But one of its longest-serving employees is now taking charge to keep the grills hot and the legacy going at MaryBills Café.
For Maria Le Blanc, the walls at MaryBill's Café tell many stories -- of both happiness and heartache.
Since 2007, customers have made the café a part of their day-to-day lives.
"I mean these are the people who you watch out for and they are a part of the family too," Le Blanc said.
But after 15 years of memories and great food, staffing issues brought on by the pandemic made it hard for its owner, Mary Bill herself, to keep the lights on, closing down the café in February.
"I cried, I had to walk away I cried, it just broke my heart, Le Blanc said.
She has worked at Mary Bill's for the past decade.
As a single mom, her family became a part of a bigger family at the café.
"And I started to think about it ... where are these people going to eat, and I mean people come in for breakfast and for back for lunch, so I couldn't see the doors close," she said.
Le Blanc took a leap of faith and bought the business for herself, keeping the menu and the décor but most importantly her fellow staffers who have been with her through good and bad.
"Yes there are challenges and things that happen, but we deal with them and try to move on," she said. "My staff is as happy as can be."
It's something the customers echo as well.
"They come in and let me know, we are glad you are here and glad you didn't let these doors close," she said. "It's like a little family in here."