Take a break Featured

9:50am EDT July 22, 2002

Before Jim Corrova could shut down his TAT Ristorante di Famiglia for a vacation this summer, he had one final task: making lunch and dinner for two customers — for the entire week he would be gone.

“They wouldn’t eat anywhere else,” says Corrova, who with his wife, Dolores, owns the restaurant on Columbus’ East Side. “I was flabbergasted they would do that. That’s what you call loyalty.”

Customer loyalty, in fact, is key for Corrova and Stan’s Restaurant owner Bill Loscko, who closes his North Columbus eatery for a two-week vacation each year. Loscko’s duties before he closes include donating any leftover food to Second Servings for homeless shelters and food kitchens.

Corrova and Loscko say they’re able to take the vacations because their businesses, both founded in the ’50s, are well-established.

However, they still have to make many arrangements before they’re able to pull off the time away.

Consider the payoff.

“About 30 years ago, everybody said I was crazy for doing it,” Corrova says of his decision to close for vacation. “I said, ‘Well, if I lose business, I lose business.’”

Corrova loses between $35,000 and $40,000 the week he’s closed; Loscko’s out about $45,000 a week. They both budget for the loss and keep a reserve on hand each year.

“Nowadays, stress is just a killer,” Loscko says. “You need the time. You get burned out in this business. You need time to relax, think about other things and be with your family. To me, I’d pay $45,000 to spend a week with my family. It’s that important to me.”

Corrova’s wife, two daughters, a son and a brother also work at TAT, so if he wants family time, he’s got to close.

Loscko says if he were to remain open, it would be tough to find replacements for key employees who would want to take two weeks off. Not only that, but he’d have trouble if he wanted to take a vacation while his restaurant remained open.

“You’d be worried about it constantly,” he says. “You’d be on the phone every day, and there would be no peace.”

The vacation also helps refresh his staff.

“Everybody has a great two weeks — they’re all rested and relaxed and ready to go for the rest of the summer,” Loscko says, adding that he sometimes takes the opportunity to do maintenance work, such as painting or remodeling inside the restaurant.

Work with the employees.

Of Loscko’s 96 employees, only two were disappointed with the two-week shut down, he says. They would have preferred to choose their own vacation dates.

“I set them down and talk to them to tell them I think this is for the better good,” he says, noting he tried closing for just one week the first four years he did this. He added a second week in 1998 because, “It actually takes me three days to close up and another three days to open back up, and I wasn’t really getting any time off.

“This year, especially with Easton opening, I was worried we would lose some people,” Loscko says, “but we didn’t lose anybody.”

Corrova tries to work with employees who do not want to lose income during the one week TAT closes each year.

“If I stay in town, like I did this year, we do deep cleaning like rug cleaning, and any employee who wants to work, they can come in and help and I pay them to clean,” Corrova says.

Both owners say most of their employees get three weeks paid vacation total, so they can take the remainder of the time whenever they wish.

“You have to be very flexible,” Corrova says. “Nowadays the service is so hard to get ahold of.”

Notify your customers.

The sign in front of Stan’s Restaurant read: “Closed Jun 28 to Jul 12. Gone fishing.”

When Loscko first started closing for vacations, that was the intention: to fish with his father, restaurant founder Stan Loscko. This year, however, he went golfing.

Signs notifying customers are very important, Loscko and Corrova say, especially considering they’ve got a slew of regulars.

In addition to using the restaurant sign, Loscko puts notices on every door of the building about 10 days before the closing. He also makes sure his answering machine’s outgoing message explains the vacation and the dates.

Corrova, on the other hand, starts even earlier.

“We advertise on radio and hang signs in the window about two months before time,” he says, adding that he’ll do the same when he closes for a few days during the Christmas season. He stresses that business owners considering closing during vacation should make sure the signs explain that fact. If you don’t, he says, customers will think you’re going out of business.

Be specific about the dates, he adds, so there’s no confusion.

Be prepared when you return.

Corrova and Loscko reopen their doors to crowds of grateful customers.

“It’s unbelievable,” Loscko says. “This is like the eighth wonder of the world. We’re probably up, I would say, 15 to 20 percent over an average day, and that goes on all week.”

“It’s just like a grand opening when we first open back up in July,” Corrova says. “We’re packed. People miss us. Thank God for that.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.