Loss of commuters means the end of Harry's Cafe at Naperville Metra station
A "Virtual Coffee Fund" wasn't enough to keep a long-standing food truck in business at the Naperville Metra station after the number of commuters dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harry's Cafe announced on Facebook it plans to close Friday after 42 years.
The shop operated by Harry and Kathy Buenger is known for selling coffee and breakfast bars to Chicago-bound commuters during the early morning hours.
It secured a deal with the city last fall that could have allowed it to stay in business for the next five years, despite new regulations on mobile food vendors. But dwindling commuter populations since the pandemic began this spring cut down on the customer base, leading Kathy to post the closing notice for the "end of an era."
"As these uncertain times continue, it is apparent commuters are not returning any time soon," the post said. "We have given this our best attempt to continue but realize any chance of return to normal is gone."
Harry's Cafe thanked everyone who gave a total of $4,115 to a GoFundMe page called "Harrys Cafe Virtual Coffee Fund," which sought to help the cafe stay in business.
One donor posted that he hadn't made it down to the train station in a couple of weeks. "Take care, stay healthy. See you soon," Jeremy Sutton wrote.
Another donor hoped the cafe could remain part of his routine. "Once we ever get back to normal, I need you guys there to help start my day!" James Geraci wrote.
Another customer, Jaime Velez, has pitched the idea on Facebook of a "proper send-off," asking well-wishers to form a socially distant line in front of the Metra station to buy one last cup of coffee, then applaud the shop owners as they drive off.
"We can do this safely and it would mean the world to them," Velez wrote.
The Buengers said their business is not so much about coffee and pastries as it is about establishing relationships and being a part of people's day.
"This ongoing journey we are all on has opened our eyes to the hearts people still have to share kindness in whatever way they can," Kathy Buenger wrote in the closing notice. "It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to serve each and every person that has come to our truck."