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@ct:Mike and Sarah Moore opened SAM’s Corner Bar & Grill in downtown New Richmond in March 2013. Mike Moore was diagnosed with blastomycosis on March 15 this year and Sarah had her second child on Sunday, April 13. Paul Rode, owner of The Agave Kitchen in Hudson, agreed to help the family by becoming their employee and running SAM’s while Mike recovers and Sarah takes care of their children. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Jackie Grumish)

Agave Kitchen owner volunteers to help New Richmond restaurant owner

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

When New Richmond's SAM’s Corner Bar & Grill co-owner Mike Moore was diagnosed with blastomycosis on March 15, his wife Sarah wasn’t sure what she would do about the restaurant. Not only was Mike sick, but she was pregnant with the couple’s second child.

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Many people have been doing what they can to help out the Moore family, everything from giving money to the family’s YouCaring.com site to donating items to the fundraiser for the Moore family to be held on May 9, at Ready Randy’s in New Richmond.

However, as Mike’s condition worsened, it became apparent to Sarah that it wasn’t going to be a week or two and he would be back on his feet, but rather six months to a year. She also a new baby to take care of after giving birth to the couple’s second child on Sunday, April 13.

“A lot of people had offered to come in and do inventory and work shifts for free, but I couldn’t manage that or have the time to set up a volunteer list to work the shifts that Mike and I cover, which was most of them,” Sarah said. “So, when I was contacted by someone who said Hudson's Paul Rode wanted to talk to me about helping with the restaurant I knew I couldn’t do this myself, so I wanted to see what he had to say. I knew that we would have to figure something out, because I can’t be at the bar and it would fall apart. That would devastate Mike and I both.”

The conversation about Rode, who is the owner of The Agave Kitchen in Hudson, becoming a voluntary employee for the Moores started about the time Mike was moved to the University of Minnesota, around March 22. And for Rode, helping the Moore family by becoming their voluntary employee and running the day-to-day operations at the restaurant was an easy choice.

“I was getting a lot of fundraiser requests for the event at Ready Randy’s on May 9, but I felt like my $25 gift certificate wasn’t going to do anything for them,” Rode said. “I knew that I could do more for them. When it comes to certain people who don’t know me, those are the people who I want to help the most. I was just thinking about it in a way that if I am able to go and operate the business how they wanted it while Mike’s out and Sarah is having their child, then they would have something to come back to.”

With Rode’s help, SAM’s reopened on April 4 at 5 p.m. and was able to return to regular business hours. Rode is handling any and all facets of running SAM’s for Mike and Sarah with the help of some of his staff from The Agave Kitchen.

“I’ve got 20 years of doing this, so it is all pretty simple to me,” Rode said. “You know what needs to be done and you delegate to the right people. I did adapt and retrofit some of the Agave staff to come in here and help as well. Everything here is set in place and the margins are so small that you can’t have any screwups. So it is more difficult to run an operation this size than it is with a restaurant like Agave.”

Despite taking a step back and being an employee again, Rode is enjoying the chance to work for someone and having the chance to make them proud.

“What makes this fun is that I have someone to impress, I have a boss to impress,” Rode said. “It’s nice having a boss again. It is nice to be an employee again. It is very humbling. It reminds me of where I came from and reminds me how lucky I am to be able to do this for them.

“I’m not getting compensated for it. Every bit of revenue goes into their checking account to pay their bills. I’m basically hired by Sarah as their general manager and personal assistant. I’m her right hand man. But it is still fun to be an employee.”

The menu for SAM’s has been adapted to make things easier on Rode and the SAM’s staff because of the limited equipment, but it will be expanded in the coming weeks. For now, juicy lucy burgers are taking the center stage, including six burgers such as the restaurant’s Relay For Life Burger Battle feature, the Ghost Burger.

According to the Mike’s Progress Facebook page, Mike was moved from the Surgical ICU to the Medical ICU on April 6. On April 9, Mike had a tracheostomy to remove a large breathing tube from his throat so he is more comfortable and to allow him to be weaned off his sedation medication. However, the process could take weeks.

“They are looking to move him to a long-term acute care hospital in St. Paul,” Sarah said. “He has severe ALDS, which is the lung injury caused by the blastomycosis. He can open his eyes, but he wasn’t able to follow very many commands because he is still heavily sedated. But once they stop the medication it still might take weeks for it to wear off.”

Despite all the other things going on in her life, between Mike still being in the hospital and her daughter on the way, Sarah still worries about the family restaurant, but not as much as she would if Rode wasn’t there to help the family like he is.

“I still worry because this restaurant is like our baby,” Sarah said. “But I don't have to worry that things are getting done and done right. I know the place is being taken care of just like we would take care of it.

“It’s been really amazing having Paul and company come in and just take care of the day-to-day things that I can’t. We are a good partnership and we communicate daily. We work as a team. But Paul is working as an employee of Mike and me while we are maintaining 100 percent ownership.”

With Mike’s return still many months off, Rode said he will run SAM’s to the best of his abilities for as long as it takes for Mike to get better so he has something good to come back to.

“I am looking forward to the day that I can shake Mike’s hand while he is carrying his daughter in his arms and give him the key back,” Rode said. “I am going to be here until they relieve me of duty to make sure things run smooth.”

The benefit for the Moore family at Ready Randy’s is planned for May 9 and goes from 4 to 10 p.m. with a spaghetti dinner from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Dave Deville will DJ and emcee the event. Those who would like to help in any way, or have any questions, can contact Melissa Quinn at (715) 760-2689. For more information on SAM’s, see its Facebook page or samscornerbargrill.com.

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