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TOUGH YEAR ON ALL FRONTS: Minnesota community keeps veteran-owned restaurant going through generosity

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The Front Porch in Kellogg

KELLOGG, Minn. (KTTC) -- Veterans Andrew Craw and Heather Packer fell in love while in Afghanistan. After serving, they moved home to Heather's hometown of Kellogg.

After hosting a popular Memorial Day backyard cookout and then finding out the town bar was for sale, they decided to start a business of their own.

In 2020, the couple experienced a roller coaster year that almost overwhelmed their restaurant The Front Porch, which they bought in 2018.

"Sat down, thought about it, prayed out it and went all in on it," said Craw.

After putting a lot of money into renovating the over a century old building, the Front Porch got shut down due to the pandemic.

The couple then found out they had a daughter on the way. The couple both tested positive for COVID on the day of delivery. 

"We got about three minutes [with her] and then we was taken to the NICU to prepare for surgery," Packer recalls. "Dad and I went home and quarantined for 10 days."

Their daughter was born with Down syndrome and had another two weeks in the hospital before going home.

Even with baby home and healthy in December, bills piled up as financial struggles threatened to close the restaurant for good.

"I'm just waiting for this to get shut off so I can pay that. It was very dicey," Craw remembers. "Like the last ounce of strength has been taken from us."

They struggled but say they were too proud to ask for help. It was then that Heather's twin sister started a Go Fund Me page. They shut it down in just over two days after the overwhelming support.

"When we saw the people of this community pick up back up, that was one of the best feelings in the world," Craw said.

The town of Kellogg may be home to less than 500 people but that small community as well as the neighboring town of Wabasha that has helped keep the front porch alive.

"Community owned and operated at this point because this is their bar. This is their bar. We just want to make it the best that we can," Craw said.

The Front Porch resumes indoor dining on Monday and is welcome to more than just the locals.

"People can be themselves. Food and music is what makes people happy," Packers said.

If you're into that, by all means come on down," Craw added.

Saying that 50 percent capacity still is not enough to keep the business going, the couple has found other ways to make ends meet through outdoor dining, take-out, gift cards, clothing and off sale specials.

They hope to stay alive in the historic building that has made decades of memories for Kellogg residents.

Also, The Front Porch supports local artists. The couple invites people to their Music Mondays which they hope will resume this summer.

The owners also thank their staff for helping them make it through the shutdowns. They credit the staff's personal sacrifices and loyalty to the restaurant as major reasons they have stayed afloat during the pandemic.

Alex Tejada

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