Customers line up at Zachary’s in Columbus on Monday to buy food from the Front Door/Back Door Restaurant, which closed earlier this year. Former employees worked together to raise money for the family of Quinton Hill, a former employee killed last week during a robbery at his home. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
July 15, 2014 10:31:03 AM
In a time of tragedy, local restaurateurs have banded together to help one of their own.
Two weeks ago, 31-year-old Quinton Hill died after being shot during what police say was a robbery attempt at his Columbus home. On Monday, former Front Door/Back Door Restaurant owner Sarah Labensky and her staff gathered at Zachary's restaurant to raise money for Hill's family, which includes Hill's infant daughter.
Hill worked at The Front Door since he was a teenager.
"When Quinton got shot, I started getting phone calls and emails and text messages from all the old employees of The Door asking, 'What can we do?'" Labensky said.
"So I started thinking, Let's get together and cook because that's how you show people you love them, you make good for them," she said. "All the cooking has been done by a Front Door staff, all the people here are Front Door employees and it just became a way to raise money for his family because they've got a lot of expenses. He's got a brand new baby."
Labensky sold Front Door/Back Door in 2012. It has since closed. She and the former staff made 100 pounds of the famous chicken salad, as well as tortilla soup and fudge pie.
Zachary's owner Doug Pellum said he let Labensky hold the fundraiser at his restaurant to help a friend in need and give back to the community.
"Sarah and (other former Front Door workers) come in here all the time and we want to give back to the community if we can," Pellum said. "It's a bad thing that happened to the family and they need help. Sarah is a great customer of ours and she came to us and asked us. Anytime a good customer comes to us and asks for something, we're going to do whatever we can to do it."
Former Front Door manager Jean Thompson Fiske said she is still reeling from Hill's death.
"You just almost have to say it can't be true. It just can't be true," Fiske said. "It's just really devastating because you never think of someone like that being mixed up with anything that could do them harm or that anyone who could know that person would want to hurt them. It's really horrible and it's a huge shock. It's a huge, huge shock."
Fiske described Hill as a "fun, great guy who always had a smile on his face."
"He was just really an awesome guy, always kept his cool, always willing to lend a hand," she said. "Whatever he needed to do, he was right there."
Participating in Monday's fund-raiser was a way to cope with the loss of Hill as well as give back to his family, Fiske said.
"I'm here to support the family and I still feel like I'm part of (The Front Door) family," she said. "We love them and we loved him and we want to help in any way that we can and take care of that family."
Labensky said Hill's death is not only a loss to his family and friends, but to the community as well.
"He was such a good friend," she said. "People he hadn't seen in years, he was still in contact with them. 'Are you OK? How's it going? How's your baby?' He stayed in touch with people. He loved food, he loved cooking. He was a pretty quiet guy until you got to know him and then he could keep you laughing in the kitchen. He was just one of the good ones. He was always coaching younger ones to stay to the straight and narrow and not do something to get in trouble."
As of Tuesday morning, Hill's death was still under investigation by the Columbus Police Department. No arrest has been made.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
2. The eerie case of Manuel Vasquez COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Charges expected to be filed Monday COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. CMSD deals with teacher turnover COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. MSU graduate Craven takes over campus radio STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY