CRESCENT BEACH, Fla.- For more than two decades, the Matanzas Innlet Restaurant has been the spot in the Crescent Beach area to grab some food and catch a spectacular sunset.
It was the sort of place where employees knew the names of their customers.
“It was really a sense of community,” says owners Jerry and Joan Galasso.
But in the end, it was a storm named Matthew that appears to have ended their 25-year run.
“When we drove down here at noon, we were dumbfounded,” they say.
The Galassos closed the restaurant Wednesday, knowing the danger was near. But they never expected to find what welcomed them Saturday afternoon when they were able to return.
Their restaurant on A1A is now a mangled mess. Hurricane Matthew tossed tables, walloped windows, and flung their walk-in freezer across the parking lot like a Frisbee. The freezer weighed 2,000 lbs. and was holding $10,000-worth of seafood.
St. Johns County is offering local businesses with recovery assistance, but with this damage, the Galassos don’t think they’ll re-open.
“I would say it’s the end of it, yeah,” Jerry says.
“We feel for our employees,” Joan says.
“It’s like a funeral, it’s like something you don’t want to see, but you have to,” says Michael Caporaso.
Caporaso has been working at the restaurant since he was in high school. He started more than 18 years ago as a dishwasher and is now the chef. Fighting tears, he told us Hurricane Matthew might’ve taken his job, but it can’t take away their memories.
“Every time I see a sunset, it’ll be the same. [I’ll] think of my family here,” he says.