• James Townsend

Olivera’s teams up with Consumers Energy to help those without power


Strong winds left thousands of Michiganders without power on Sunday, December 12th. Consumers Energy teamed up with a handful of businesses across the state to help those impacted.


One such business was Olivera’s restaurant.


A press release from Consumers Energy said, “While crews continue around the clock restoration efforts, Consumers Energy is hosting five community events this evening in the areas hit hardest by yesterday’s severe storm than featured high winds over 55 miles per hour. In Ionia, Cedar Springs, Carson City, and Spring Arbor Consumers Energy team members are providing free large pizzas to customers, and in Flint, customers can get free coffee and donuts.”

The December 12th release went on to say, “In total, with today’s favorable weather, our tireless crews have been able to restore power to more than 105,000 customers, but we have more work to do. We are so grateful for our customers’ patience, and these community events are just a small way to thank them as our crews work to get our customers back up and running,” said Melissa Gleespen, one of Consumers Energy’s Officers in Charge for the storm event.


The release also said, “In all, the wind storm impacted more than 150,000 customers. Severe weather swept through Michigan knocking out power along the lakeshore, moving across mid and southern Michigan yesterday morning. The hardest hit areas in Michigan include: Midland, Flint, Carson City, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Alma and Ionia. Winds have knocked down trees, limbs, broken 192 poles, and damaged over 2,200 power lines.”


Ricardo Biella is the owner of the Olivera’s restaurants in Ionia and Portland. He said that Consumers reached out to his Ionia location to make arrangements to provide Ionia County residents who were without power with one large pizza with any toppings on Sunday between 3:00 and 6:00.


While the Ionia location embraced the challenge, the restaurant itself was also impacted by the wind storm. They were running on generators and having phone issues with their internet-based phones. The eight incoming telephone numbers all had to be forwarded temporarily to cell phones.


Biella told the Beacon, “We had a huge line all night. My wife and two sons came in to help and we still were not able to get to all the calls. We have never made that many pizzas before.”


Due to the overwhelming popularity of the event, Olivera’s extended the event for another hour at their own cost.


When all was said and done, Biella estimates they made more than 300 pizzas for the event.


He said, “We had a driver running supplies from Portland to Ionia. We were averaging about 30 seconds per pizza at one point. In 20 years, we haven’t done half that much pizza dough on our best day.”


Biella called in additional staff that were not working at the time to help. They ended up with 20 workers at the Ionia location to help.


Biella said, “I am so proud of my staff and crew. Everyone stayed calm, stayed positive, and were high fiving each other.”


“Many customers were ordering more food or pizza beyond the one paid for by Consumers.”


“Our pizza line turned into factory production line.”


Olivera’s Ionia location has been open for 20 years, and the Portland location is almost to its six-year mark.


Photo courtesy of Olivera's.

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