When Denny Emmer arrived at his Haslett restaurant for work on Wednesday morning, he was greeted with a broken window and a ransacked cash register.
“There was glass everywhere, all inside the ice cream serving window, just everywhere,” said Emmer, who’s owned Cheezy D’s Deli and Dogs in Haslett since March.
Someone used a brick from outside the building to break the ice cream service window, climbed in, grabbed whatever money they could and left out the back door, Emmer said.
Emmer checked the building to make sure he was alone while he waited for Meridian Township Police to arrive.
The damage looked a lot worse than it was — Emmer needs a new window, which should cost a couple hundred dollars, he said, and the suspect only got away with change. In addition, Emmer has insurance for the business.
The more Emmer thought about the incident the day of the break-in, the more he felt the need to handle the situation with compassion. So when the investigating police officer asked Emmer if he’d like to prosecute, he declined. He instead thought of a way to help the less fortunate.
“I think it was somebody that needed help,” said Emmer. “There are actually people around Haslett that are having a tough time. There are people here who are struggling. We know a lot of them.”
Emmer suspects the person responsible is someone who walks by the business, has bought something from the restaurant in the past or couldn’t afford the prices.
Later that night at home, Emmer and his wife, Michelle, who also works at the eatery, came up with an idea.
Emmer posted a message to Cheezy D’s Deli and Dogs’ Facebook page pledging free food to anyone who was in need. Emmer’s message took off and has been shared more than 1000 times.
He said people from Florida, California and as far away as Australia started to reach out looking to donate money. Emmer plans to take the donations and load them onto a refillable gift card. He can swipe the card anytime a customer tells the cashier, “I’m a Haslett VIP.” Emmer said he will use the gift card to buy a selection of sandwiches, a hot dog, or soup, plus chips and a drink.
Emmer grew up in Haslett. His family has owned a farm in the area since 1889. He said he feels a strong connection to Haslett and he and his wife Michelle have been giving back to the community they love for years. It took a break-in to realize they needed to give more.
“You just never know who needs a little help,” said Emmer.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Haslett business owner reacts to break-in with compassion, offers free meals