HUDSON -- The Lamers children grew up at Mama Maria’s -- riding bikes through the parking lot, celebrating birthdays at its tables and working in the restaurant as they got older.
Their father, Gary, had owned the restaurant since he and their mother, Kimberly, opened it more than 30 years ago.
“This was his dream, and you see that and when you grow up with it, it becomes your dream,” Allie Lamers said.
When Gary died unexpectedly just before Christmas last year, children Allie, Alex and Ayden, along with Kimberly, decided to keep that dream going.
Mama Maria’s will come to an end, but they will find a new way to honor their father. They plan to open Gerhardto’s, in homage to Gary’s full German name, with an Italian twist.
The four had hoped to open the new restaurant in the same building the three children grew up in, but the financial impact of Gary’s death means they’re now looking for a smaller location to start. The new building and business will still work to capture all of Gary’s spirit.
“We will be the next generation to carry on his name and amazing homemade Italian recipes and we can’t wait to serve you soon,” Allie said.
The process to reopening has been a long and complicated one. Gary died, in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Over the next couple months, the family weighed their options, taking time to make sure they didn’t make a rash decision during an emotional time.
During the process, they reached out to the community.
“The response was pretty positive, and it was very good to hear,” Allie said.
The family, though, was left with debt, and struggled with the legalities following Gary’s death and finding a bank to be a lender, all with the ongoing pandemic on top of it.
Community members had suggested the family start a GoFundMe page for support. Now that Mama Maria’s itself is closing, and a new restaurant is opening, the three children will be returning the money raised from that.
Despite the challenges, the Lamers kids said it is worth it. They watched their dad pour his livelihood into those restaurant walls, Allie said, and create a legacy within them.
“To see that go with him, would just be another death in itself,” Allie said.
Family was Gary’s focus in his last few months, Kimberly said. The two were divorced, but in the last year had been able to come to a place of understanding and forgiveness.
“In the last month that was all he said, ‘I want to be with my kids, I want to be with my family,;” she said.
Up until his last week, Gary was in Mama Maria’s, even singing in front of customers, a passion of his.
Allie said she’ll always remember the way her dad could light up a room like that, with his bright, blue eyes. They were blessed, Alex said, to have an amazing dad. He would always give everyone a chance and served as a staple in the community.
“I would remember him always going around to every table check in and making sure their food was delicious,” Alex said.
Ayden remembers walking into the restaurant with his dad, helping him in the kitchen and being so excited when he first became an employee.
“I want to carry on my dad’s legacy because he was a big part of the community and everyday lives of people,” Ayden said.
They are working to keep his memory alive through his restaurant dreams, and building on the legacy in the way he wanted to before his death. Whatever the outcome, Allie said they know they have to at least try.
“We can say we tried, she said. “We know that we’re making him proud.”
When it opens, Gerhardto’s will have a chair and memorial to honor Gary and his legacy.