Rony Alvarado stacks several meals on his arms and forearms, waltzes past the rock memorabilia draped from the walls and places the grass-fed burgers, cut fries and thick shakes on the table. The kids, smiling and shouting, quickly make a request – "Can we put on Spongebob?" they chirp.
"Oh you got it, sure," Alvarado laughs, turning on Nick Jr. "I love kids," he says, grinning. "Family, that's important, man; it matters so much."
Though he's all smiles with customers – even telling those without cash their credit is good with him – Rony (pronounced "Ronnie") and his restaurant, Rony's Rock Burger, are hurting.
Alvarado took the restaurant over in March of 2011 from former owner Jeff Louis, transforming the small "man vs. food"-styled burger joint to a rock-'n-roll themed hangout.
While items like the Ted Nugent (chicken nuggets), Yolk-o (burger with a fried egg) and Sweet Home Alabama (grilled cheese sandwich) have brought some groupies and a heaping of teens looking for a place to gather, it just isn't enough to make ends meet.
The $3,300 he pays a month on rent and taxes looks like a mountain. The last three others who failed in the same location can attest to those struggles, he remarks. Alvarado is behind on payments and the landlord won't budge on lowering the rent.
He tried to open his burger joint over the summer, hucking his burgers at the Glen Rock Municipal Pool in June. He "lost his shirt" and quickly shut down again before reopening for fall.
"If it keeps going like this, I don't think I'll make it to the end of the year," Alvarado says somberly.
It's a bewildering situation for Rony, who previously worked as a chef across the street at RoCCa.
"I don't understand why I'm not getting the community support," he says. "Everybody that comes here is so satisfied. I never got a complaint from anybody, ever. This is the best burger in the area. So I know it's not that they don't like the food. I just think that people in town don't support enough businesses right here...I get some people in town coming but it's just not enough."
Alvarado says he believes the borough citizens are largely aware of his burger spot, located at 192 Rock Road.
He also acknowledges that some places in town – pointing to John's Boy Pizza – have a regular, steady stream of fiercely local residents packing the tables, which arguably makes it harder to set a toe hold in the market.
"Owning a restaurant has been a dream," he says. "And what better place to have it than in Glen Rock? This is a great town. I figured if I presented a great product at a moderate price, people would love it. It just hasn't panned out yet."
Asked if he thought it could be a marketing problem, Alvarado wasn't sure.
It's something of a moot point – you need money to spend money on advertising, he notes. And the til's low, with available funds largely heading to the landlord, distributors and the energy company.
Alvarado says he's trying all he can to spur some interest in his rock-themed burger joint. He's taking a risk by opening up again on Sundays by offering specials on wings, free fries on Thursdays and $2 sliders if the customer orders 10 or more, he says.
"Whatever it takes; I'll come to your house and cook," he told Patch. "Whatever I need to do. My customers are amazing, all I need are more of them from here. We're fighting, we're trying to make it. That's all I can do."
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