Brothers-In-Law Making Sure
People Who Serve Are Served
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Call it brotherly love for the community.
“When you get a meal, it brightens your day,” said Mike Joubert, who owns Wise Guy’s Sammy’s with his wife, Sheryl. “People are nervous, they’re scared, but food gives you a sense of normalcy.”
The popular sandwich shop at Ford & Main has taken to surprising essential workers by showing up with sandwiches and pizza for at various locations throughout the city.
“Those healthcare workers are putting themselves out there so we can be safe,” said Mike. “We wanted to say ‘thank you.’”
He and his brother-in-law, Jeff Vesley, who owns Molly’s Deli, 43 Pioneer St., Cooperstown, first got the idea when they collaborated to send pizzas to Fox Hospital.
“We were thinking about how bad it is that these people are dealing with this horrible disease on the front lines and we wanted to buy them lunch,” he said.
“Mike got it started, and then we decided that I should do something up here,” said Jeff. “He knows who needs to be taken care of, and then we do it.”
But things really got started, Mike said, when someone brought him a tip.
“A couple of weeks ago, one of my regulars handed me a big check and told me, ‘That’s a tip – I know you’ll use it well,’” he said.
Dubbing it the “Pay It Forward” fund, he got Jeff to join in and send sandwiches to Bassett Hospital.
We made 30 sandwiches and salads for 27 workers in the ER and the security team,” he said. “Everyone at Bassett is working so hard, but they’re really doing the heavy lifting for all this Corona nonsense.”
Since, the tips have really started coming in.
Mike partnered with County Club Nissan to buy lunch for the residents at Nader Towers, and with the Underground Attic to send sandwiches to the Bassett staff working the COVID-19 screening tent on River Street.
A former New York City firefighter paid for a stack of sandwiches to be sent to the Oneonta Fire Department, and the SUNY Oneonta Athletic Department raised $500 to help purchase meals.
“The more we can bring in, the more we can give away,” said Mike. “And we’re only able to do it because other people help out.”
Though it was originally intended to be anonymous, Mike has revealed himself in a Facebook post last week in order to help raise awareness and donations.
“It’s been even cooler than we could imagine,” he said. “It’s become a full-scale community effort.”
For Jeff, it’s about giving back to the people who supported him when he first opened. “I did a fair amount of business with Bassett over the winter,” he said. “They’ve been a big help to me when I was first getting started.”
Sharing also helps reduce food waste. “You could throw away a lot of food when something like this happens,” he said. “I’m happier to give something away than waste it, and if you can make someone happy for a day, even better.”
Jeff hopes to do another delivery to Bassett later this week, and Mike receives emails daily on suggestions of who might best benefit from a sandwich platter or a pizza.
Donations to the Pay It Forward fund may be made in person at Wise Guys Sammys or by calling the restaurant with a credit card.
“I love making food and I love people,” said Mike. “And this is my way of living my dream.”