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Of all things the pandemic has revealed, the importance of local restaurants is one of them.

If you want to see how important TwoRows Classic Grill is to Allen, look at the wall of “thank you” plaques when you walk in.

With almost 20 years in the community, Monday marked a different milestone for owner Baine Brooks.

March 22 — exactly one year ago — was the day his business came to a standstill during the initial COVID-19 shutdown.

“I remember it like it was yesterday and, I mean, I didn’t know where I was going to be,” Brooks said. “I was down, down, down.”

A check written the same day from a regular customer picked him back up.

“It was just so generous during a time where everything was just doom and gloom,” Brooks said.

The check for $5,000 was meant to help make ends meet.

For Brooks, it wasn’t about the money.

“That check motivated me to stay open. It motivated me to get creative,” he said.

From parking lot parties to toilet paper with to-go meals, from a food truck to a TV show, Brooks said it was all inspired by a customer who paid it forward.

Monday, Brooks paid the customers back.

He was waiting when the donors walked through the doors.

“It’s March 22 and I’ve been waiting to give y’all this check,” Brooks said. “I’ve been holding it for a year.”

During a rough year, Brooks said he never considered cashing the check written by teacher Johnnie Ashley and her husband Stephen.

“We knew that all the restaurants were having a tough time and this is our favorite one. We’ve been coming here for 25 years,” Johnnie Ashley said.

“It means so much to be able to give that back. It means that we’re open, the staff is working, people are eating out,” Brooks said.