Nikki Homan never expected to work at Tre Lune for nearly two decades.
Back in 2003 while looking for work as a single mother, Ms. Homan was fortunate enough to have a friend working at the recently established Tre Lune Restaurant and Bar in Montecito. Six months after the Coast Village Road favorite opened its doors, the general manager at the time secured her a job with the main floor staff as a server.
Now well into her 17th year at the restaurant, it’s become her home away from home.
“It’s at least 80% regulars,” said Ms. Homan. “It’s kind of like ‘Cheers.’ You walk in, most people greet us with hugs and kisses and ‘How are you? How are the kids?’ and the kids by name. Some of them are stars to us that we see on TV and movies and they come in and say, ‘How’s Charlie? How’s Sophia?’ and that touches you. We get to do that back and we reciprocate it. That gives something special to our community to have an environment like that to come to.”
The simple family atmosphere is something Ms. Homan said Tre Lune tries hard to convey to everyone that comes through the door, staff included.
“This job helped me raise my children and be self-sufficient. They’re my second family. We’ve all raised our kids together and grown together here,” said Ms. Homan.
She said she’s become the “house mom,” so when the coronavirus pandemic hit and Tre Lune had to cut hours and staff, Ms. Homan found it only natural to rally support for her fellow employees through a GoFundMe campaign.
In order to survive the shut-down orders, Tre Lune has had to cut staff down to 10, and is now open from 3 to 8 p.m., taking orders for to-go and curbside pickup only starting at noon.
Seeing her fellow employees hurting and desperate, waiting for unemployment benefits as the system becomes overburdened with millions seeking the same, Ms. Homan was compelled to find them support.
“I felt helpless. I can’t sew. I can’t sew you a mask. From my pocket, I can’t do it. I would sit out in front of the restaurant and hand out cash if I could,” said Ms. Homan.
“There are some employees that can’t even apply for unemployment, and they need cash. Bills are coming in every day. Rent. Some of these people aren’t lucky enough to have landlords that are going to work with them. I didn’t want them to panic. I feel for these people that have children, have babies on the way, and I wanted to do something.”
Ms. Homan admits she’s not the most tech-savvy person out there, but found setting up a fundraiser through GoFundMe simple enough.
Found at https://bit.ly/2XCjwYK, the campaign has already raised $4,850, with only 11 donors contributing towards the $50,000 goal.
“We talked to the kitchen managers and the people that are back there and they said, ‘We’re here. We’re making money. Give it to those who aren’t working,’ so we’ve distributed it amongst the 23 people today that are not working. I excluded myself, the general manager, and the staff that is here right now,” said Ms. Homan.
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Homan was able to put a few hundred dollars in the hands of each employee that is unable to work during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I had customers texting me and calling me saying, ‘I want to contribute. I want to do something,’” said Ms. Homan. “To be able to do something for these people feels good.”
Without a list of regular customers to draw from, Ms. Homan has been promoting the fund through her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She’s also promoting other GoFundMe efforts around town, like the Los Arroyos Employee Relief Fund and an employee led effort for Arigato Sushi.
“We’re all in this together. We all need to help each other out. We’re in for some tough times right here, and the more we do to support each other the better off we’re all going to be. Plus it feels great to put cash into somebody’s hand that needs it,” said Ms. Homan.
In addition to the GoFundMe, Ms. Homan is working with Owner Gene Montesano, who also owns Lucky’s, Joe’s Cafe, and D’Angelo’s Bread, to “accommodate the new normal” and find new ways to utilize their access to bulk orders and get people back to work and paid.
“He’s thinking about opening Joe’s as a grocer to have grocery items there for people so you can reduce your footprint in town and not go to the grocery store but go to Joe’s instead to get what you need. That way he also has the opportunity to put some people back on the payroll,” said Ms. Homan.
In the meantime, Ms. Homan is spreading the word and sharing each donation on social media, and said employees have been grateful to see the support demonstrated so far.
“It’s meaningful. It shows that their community is supporting them. It’s really important because there’s a huge discrepancy between the haves and the have nots,” said Ms. Homan.
“We’re in Montecito. You have people living paycheck to paycheck that are serving multi-gazillionaires living here, and they’re supporting them. They’re giving, and it’s really wonderful for our staff to see that support. You know, we serve them, and now they’re serving us and it’s a beautiful thing.”