By Michael J. Billoni
Casey’s Cabana, Grand Island’s student-founded and -operated riverfront summer restaurant, opens for its fourth season Saturday. It will continue from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day throughout the summer
Co-founders Gabby Bergstrom and Luke Hess have completed their first year in college and, because of the continued growth of the business, they promoted Emily Reynolds and Tori Augustine as managers responsible for staffing, organization and daily operations.
The management team began preparing for this season since it closed last summer. During the winter, staffers solicited applications and virtually interviewed more than 50 students to work at the seasonal outdoor eatery at 1437 Ferry Road on the shores of the mighty Niagara River.
“We found some highly skilled and eager employees after a very tough interview process. They are all so excited to get going this year,” explained Bergstrom, a business administration major at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. She is a member of its Division III NCAA softball team.
Hess completed his first year at the University at Buffalo, where he is studying biochemistry.
They both endured a tough year with COVID-19 safety precautions.
Looking ahead to this season, “We plan to hold some unique events and other family-friendly activities to give back to Grand Island and to keep our staff busy this summer. We are most excited to add smoothie bowls to our menu,” Bergstrom said. “It is a smoothie concoction with a delicious array of toppings to tie it all together. The team feels this is a perfect addition to the menu as it adds a healthier alternative to some of the more ‘cheat day’ dishes we specialize in.”
The team’s third owner is Daniel Deihl, who is completing his junior year at Grand Island High School. He recently joined the electrical program at BOCES and gives the eatery someone to assist with electrical issues that may come up this summer.
“Luke and I are so proud of Dan’s focus and dedication,” Bergstron added. “We know how challenging the junior year in high school can be, and then you add COVID and planning for a business as an owner, and he has done a tremendous job. He is super-stoked to get back out on that grill and whip up some burgers for the Grand Island community!”
The staff members this summer include Grace Samplinski, Andy Loomis, Care Reynolds, Aidan Cammardo, Sydney Martin, Liam Snyder, Lana Conway, Olivia Nucci, Matt Aronica and Layla Rein.
“The cabana is so blessed to have such an amazing crew working this summer and they are so eager to get started,” Bergstrom added.