Local restaurant keeping late owner’s holiday tradition of giving back alive despite kitchen fire

A popular restaurant that’s recently been through multiple tragedies is still finding a way to help others this holiday.

The staff at El Sombrero, a Mexican restaurant in Troy, is still mourning the loss of its owner, Ruben Pelayo, who died after a battle with Pancreatic Cancer in late October.

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Pelayo had an annual tradition of serving free meals on Thanksgiving Day and the staff is working to keep that tradition alive.

“Ruben made a promise to his mom when he left Mexico that he would do this,” Murphy Howe, coordinator of the Thanksgiving community dinner and friend of Pelayo, told News Center 7′s Kayla McDermott.

Despite the fact that he won’t be there with them, the restaurant staff will continue his annual tradition, but there’s been another obstacle the restaurant has had to work around; a fire has kept El Sombrero closed since mid-October.

“We have so much smoke damage,” he said.

Howe said dealing with the aftermath of the fire and Pelayo’s death has been difficult.

“It’s been tough. I mean, we have employees that are concerned about what’s happening,” Howe explained.

Despite juggling all this pain, Howe said the Thanksgiving dinner has to go on.

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“For decades, this has been people’s Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, for my wife and myself this is what we do on Thanksgiving,” he said.

They’re gearing up to serve up dinner for 3,000-4,000 people. But since El Sombrero is still being repaired from the fire, they’re taking their annual tradition to St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen.

On Thanksgiving Day, meals will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the soup kitchen at 25 N. Mulberry St.

They’re still looking for additional volunteers to help cook, serve, and clean up. If you’re interested in helping, you can contact Volunteer Coordinator, Melody Vallieu at (937) 214-6838.

Updates on the Thanksgiving dinner and the repairs to the restaurant can be found here, on its Facebook page.