REDWOOD — The mother-daughter tandem finally got to celebrate recognition as Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year, months after they won it during a time COVID-19 was everywhere and the manager tested positive for the virus.
JK’s Roadhouse on Route 26 was named 2020 Business of the Year about 13 months ago. It was May of last year, a time when salons were nearly defying state restrictions, farmers were dumping milk and a loving couple was donating their wedding reception food to health care workers.
Charlene Kring, manager of JK’s, was about to test positive for COVID-19. Something of a COVID-19 cluster was making its way across the St. Lawrence River. Ms. Kring had been working 70 hours a week in a place that followed strict guidelines, but the one time she went out to dinner to get a break, she got the virus. The result is their restaurant closing for two weeks.
There wasn’t much to celebrate, let alone a venue to do it in. Their first nod as Business of the Year by the chamber felt all but glossed over. They were busy finding products, not getting takeout boxes from a supplier, scrambling to find meat and following state restrictions.
Yet they never changed their prices. The chicken tenders remained at $6.99. Their strategy of not being an in-and-out restaurant, of getting to know their customers, never changed. Ms. Kring’s mom, Sandra Caputo, who has owned the joint for nearly 12 years, runs the kitchen most days while Ms. Kring handles the dining room floor and bar. Mrs. Caputo orders the food, Ms. Kring the alcohol. The mother-daughter still fought sometimes, of course. Sometimes they’re not in the best groove, but that’s the nature of working with family. They get over it quickly.
“Normally she’s just miserable, and then I look at her and start laughing,” Ms. Kring said, “and then she starts laughing.”
After more than a year, it was time for Ms. Kring and her mom to be recognized.
The pair recently took their staff to the awards dinner at Bonnie Castle Resort. They expected the dinner would recognize the 2021 winners and they would get a plaque, then go home.
Instead, the chamber recognized the 2020 winners like they had just won. The Business of the Year award is basically the people’s choice, since the chamber decides the winner based on reviews it gets from the public.
“It made all of us from last year feel like we actually got our time,” Mrs. Caputo said.
At the end, the chamber asked every resident at the ceremony to stand up.
“They said, ‘This year’s recipient of the citizen of the year award is you. We survived this pandemic and everyone worked hard,’” Mrs. Caputo said. “It was a great ending.”
She was glad her staff was there.
“She (Charlene) rallies the front. I rally the back,” Mrs. Caputo said. “But it takes everybody.”
The restaurant has been for sale for some time. Mrs. Caputo is ready for a new adventure, and if she doesn’t sell it by the beginning of 2022, she said she’ll likely turn it over to her daughter. It appears that doesn’t sound too bad to her, even if — since testing positive — she still has issues with her sense of smell.
“I just love it, honestly,” Ms. Kring said. “I don’t feel like I’m working.”