Two Superior restaurants closed their doors Sunday, Jan. 27: the Breakwater Restaurant in the Itasca neighborhood and City's 58th Street Diner in the city's South End.
A day later, the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery in Superior posted a message on Facebook encouraging former Breakwater employees to submit job applications and informing former patrons they will be accepting Breakwater coupons.
"It's one of those service industry things," said Catrina Wuolu, serving manager for the Superior Perkins. "You just know that they have good employees and they needed help. We have lots of college students, so we're very flexible with scheduling, so it was easy for me to be able to take a couple of them on."
As of Wednesday, Jan. 30, the Superior Perkins had hired five of the Breakwater's 24 employees, including longtime server Janie Schulties.
"The community has been wonderful to us and everybody's opened their doors to us," said Schulties, whose first day on the job was Wednesday. "It's been really fabulous. They really helped us in an awful situation."
She said Breakwater employees were as surprised at the restaurant's closing as the community. The first they heard of it was Sunday afternoon, when the owner came in and told them they had to shut down.
"I was there seven years," Schulties said. "Ninety percent of us are parents and you know, we live day to day. It's been very difficult."
When she shared news with Wuolu, it opened a new possibility.
"Catrina's been my best friend for years and so I called her and she said 'Bring them all in,'" Schulties said. "She called their boss right away and by that night they were welcoming us. It was amazing."
Wuolu said Perkins General Manager Sonny Perry was adamant about trying to help the Breakwater employees. The restaurants have similar menus, similar coupons and share some of the same patrons.
"When I had a customer Monday, she'd have them on Wednesday," Wuolu said of Schulties. "Now we're hanging out together."
The Superior restaurant may not be able to employ all the Breakwater staff, but there are three additional Perkins locations in Duluth as well as one in Cloquet.
"With all the stores in the area, we are able to make sure we can find jobs for loyal employees," Wuolu said.
Perkins does not accept Breakwater gift cards, but they will be honored at the Breakwater restaurants in Ashland and Ironwood, Michigan.
Not only have the restaurant's employees moved to Perkins, so have the customers. Wuolu said a group of 15 former Breakwater patrons stopped by Perkins on Wednesday.
"They were my regular golfers on Wednesday mornings," Schulties said. "They got a hold of me, I told them I was coming here."
She appreciated all the kind comments she's seen on Facebook since the Breakwater closed, and the fact that many members of the Breakwater serving "family" will be able to stay together.
"Your life can change in a second," Schulties said. "And thankfully, all these wonderful people. The customers, they're so Superior. They really have been."
Calls to Breakwater owner Dan Martin were not returned as of press time.
City's 58th Street Diner at 5802 Tower Ave. opened in June 2013. Its specialties were breakfast, homemade desserts, malts, Friday fish fries, broasted chicken and cabbage rolls. When contacted via Facebook, the business confirmed it has closed for good.