Wisconsin restaurant burns down, owner keeps paying workers

Bruce Kroll paid 40 employees for six months

Owner pays employees after restaurant fire for six months
Owner pays employees after restaurant fire for six months

PLATTEVILLE, WI (WISC/CNN) — When a fire destroyed the Culver’s Restaurant in Platteville on Nov. 16, 2013 it left the 40 employees wondering if they still had a job.

“What the owner could have done is he could have said, ‘Hey, you can find another place of employment,'” said Cole Cooper, an employee who has worked for five years at the restaurant.

Bruce Kroll owned the Culver’s Restaurant in Platteville for 19 years. He works in the restaurant and knows his employees and understands the importance they play. For that reason he made the decision to continue paying the 40 employees for six months while the restaurant was being rebuilt.

“To me not only was it the right thing to do, it made business sense to do it,” Kroll said.

His insurance paid the employee payroll for 60 days. Kroll paid the remaining four months of paychecks, almost $144,00 out of his own pocket.

“He actually paid us out of his own pocket until the store was rebuilt. That’s why I love working here. I’m probably going to be here another five years just because of the owner,” Cooper said.

Kroll did make one request of his employees during the six-month period the restaurant was closed. He wanted them to volunteer their time to help the community. Some team members served Christmas dinner at an area church for 150 people while others volunteered at Badger Camp. Cole Cooper and other employees decided to give back to the people who tried to save the restaurant from the fire.

“We actually set up a fundraiser in honor of the local Platteville fire department. We fundraised over $2,000 and 100 percent of the donations were actually given to the fire department,” Cooper said.

Kroll said he was able to continue to pay his 40 employees because he also owns a Culver’s in Dubuque, Iowa and he used the profits from that restaurant to help the Platteville employees. He said helping those 40 employees and keeping them in the Culver’s family was what mattered most.

“It is just a building and Culver’s of Platteville is much more than that. It is the people and not the building and we didn’t lose the people and so why should we allow the fire to cause that to happen?” Kroll said.

Six months to the day of the fire, the restaurant reopened on June 16. Less than 24 hours later it was closed again when a tornado came within 20 yards of the restaurants door. It didn’t do any damage to the building but debris was strewn throughout the property and employees spent the next day cleaning up.

The restaurant is now open, hopefully for good.

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