Ole’s Waffle Shop owners resort to spending retirement money to avoid layoffs

The owners of Ole's Waffle Shop in Alameda are the kind of bosses that employees can really appreciate.

Ken and Vickie Monize said they've been spending their retirement savings to keep their employees working during the pandemic.

The Monizes said the workers are part of their family.

The employees said they're receiving a full salary even though the business is not running at full speed.

Ole's is known for its breakfast.

But since the shelter-in-place order, it is serving up much more: help for all 41 employees.

"We didn't feel like we can tell people they didn't have a job anymore. They're family," said Ken.

The restaurant has been run by Vickie Monize's family for 48 years-since 1972.

The Monizes said they decided to use the money they saved to buy a retirement home: $400,000 to keep their staff employed and their doors open.

"We didn't build this business, they did," said Ken.

The couple said their relationship with their employees run deep. Many have worked at Ole's for decades.

"I get very personal with them. I go to their kids'; parties," said Vickie.

Workers said the pandemic has hurt business, with just take-out and starting three weeks ago, outdoor dining. But the owners have taken care of them.  

"You need something, let me know. They do with me and they do with everybody. It's hard to find a boss like that, said Salvatore Gutierrez, a cook at Ole's for 20 years.  

The owners say small acts of kindness is a legacy their parents instilled in them.

The walls inside Ole's are adorned with images of their employees. Photos and portraits painted by a customer. News of the couple's gesture have spread and they've received notes of appreciation from customers. 

"Just being together in a world where sometimes it isn't so easy to navigate," said Ken.  

Repeat customers are also the backbone of their business; the names of some are engraved on a table.

The Monize's tell me their success going forward depends on the community and their employees.

And that kindness is food for the heart.

"It gives us a renewal for going forward, an appreciation for what every person does here," said Ken.  

The Monize's said they have put their plan for a retirement home on hold indefinitely.

They hope their story will inspire people to help others in any way that they can.