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Portland eatery wins $3,000 grant from the ‘Great American Tip-Off’

The money was divided evenly among the 14 hourly employees at Cooperativa, an Italian marketplace, food hall and bar in the Pearl District.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Employees at Cooperativa, an Italian marketplace, food hall and bar in the Pearl District, won a $3,000 grant as part of a national program called The Great American Tip-Off.

Amber Ceohan said she found work at Cooperativa after being laid off at from another restaurant. The business opened in August 2020, a few months into the pandemic. 

"Honestly, this job has been a blessing in the middle of what was otherwise a really, really stressful period of time," said Ceohan.

Owners Sarah Schafer and Anna Caporael said the pandemic has been challenging for them as well, from working overtime to finding enough employees to seeing their employees' tips decline.   

"We have seen that shift especially over the last six months," said Caporael. "Just tips being generally lower. Doesn't seem service related, it just looks like people are maxed out themselves."

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The program is making similar donations across the country to reward employees for sticking it out during the pandemic.   

Recently, the employees at Cooperativa got a surprise assist. Customers nominated the business for a grant for exceptional service through entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis' program called The Great American Tip-Off.\

The $3,000 grant was split evenly among Cooperativa's 14 hourly employees, which breaks down to about $214 per employee.

"We were so surprised, we had no idea that was coming. And for us, our hourly staff who also make tips, it was such a beautiful surprise and it came right before the holidays," said Caporael.

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