Wendy Halayay knows that everyday Cozy Cup Cafe is open and serving quality food to its customers, it pays tribute to Frank Halayay’s legacy.
“We’re going to be proceeding forward as a family (to keep the restaurant going),” Wendy said.
A fixture in the Hollister community, Frank was 66 years old when he died from respiratory failure on Dec. 16 as a result from Covid pneumonia, Wendy said. Cozy Cup’s founder and chef, Frank leaves behind a void as enormous as the amount of love he poured upon countless customers who frequented Cozy Cup, which first started serving hearty breakfast food in 1985.
“Frank was genuinely interested in our customers’ lives,” Wendy said. “He loved his work and this community. In that way, he was one in a million because he always had an upbeat and great attitude. This is a very difficult time for us right now, but in my heart I will remember his upbeat spirit and that is what will get me through. We will carry on Frank’s love of people going forward.”
Wendy has received a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, which has given her strength and hope amid heartbreaking loss. “We are really being blessed by the community,” she said. “Frank was loved by a lot of people, and that is comforting. People are coming in telling us how much Frank meant to them, and that is just a really awesome feeling.”
Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez first met Frank in 1988, when Velazquez opened up The Vault. “He was kind enough to come over and start talking to me, giving me advice on things to do and not to do,” Velazquez said. “Some of his advice I listened to, and some I had to learn the hard way. If I didn’t have supplies for something, he would always loan me something. Always willing to help people—that’s how I’ll remember Frank.”
Frank and Wendy got married in August 2003, two years after they first met at—appropriately enough—the Cozy Cup Cafe. Wendy was looking for a part-time job toward the end of 2001 and started working at the Cozy Cup in March 2002. Both had two children each from previous relationships, and Wendy’s two sons will be instrumental to the restaurant’s bid for longevity going forward.
“Frank taught my sons everything he knew,” Wendy said. “They know his recipes and how to prepare our menu because Frank taught them how to do that.”
Frank’s death was a shock because he had no underlying health conditions, Wendy said. However, Frank started experiencing unusual fatigue the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. He first chalked it up to working everyday with only a few days off since the pandemic started—a necessity to keep the business afloat—but after the fatigue didn’t subside, Wendy took Frank to Hazel Hawkins where he was admitted on Dec. 3.
“They checked his oxygen level and it was extremely low,” Wendy said. “Apparently, he got Covid pneumonia, which is a lot stronger than regular pneumonia. No matter how much they try to get oxygen in you, your blood is not able to absorb it, and within two weeks his organs started to fail from a lack of oxygen. … The tragic thing was he wasn’t ill and was in good health. It’s really scary how this disease (coronavirus) works.”
Frank worked as a chef for Sheraton Hotels before opening up Cozy Cup Cafe 35 years ago. According to Wendy, Frank encouraged his employees and set them up to be successful for however long they worked at the restaurant and beyond.
“He would teach you from the start as a bus person, then to prepping food and to cooking,” Wendy said. “He was always trying to get people to go a step further and continually advance their skills.”