December 9, 2014
This morning, since we didn’t have any overnight guests, I decided to go grab a late breakfast. It’s nice sometimes to have someone else do the cooking for breakfast. I love going to this wonderful American Small Town Diner called Howards Bakery and Restaurant. It is located in King George on Route 3. I wrote about this place last year when I discovered it.
It is everything you would think of in a diner. The colors, the counter with the round stools, the booths and menu. Best of all, it is where most of the locals go. Going here, you can see people you don’t normally see and hear all that gossip that is going on in this small community. It really reminds me of the Colonial Coffee Houses and Taverns where people went to find out what was going on in the world and to discuss things.
I came in and took a booth as I normally do and Teresa, one of the wait staff waved at me as I sat down. Just a minute later, she arrived at my table with a small glass of Coke with a lot of ice. This is my drink order no matter where we go. I had to smile as she set it down on the table and said to her, “It is getting really scary that you know my order before I place it.” She smiled and asked me if I was ready to order. Once again, she really didn’t have to ask. I order the same thing every time. I mean, why “fix” something that isn’t broke? As I told her my order, she just smiled.
After a few minutes she returned with my breakfast. As she set it down, she asked me, “What are you going to do after we close?” It was as if a 2 by 4 had hit me in the head. Closing? What do you mean closing? I must have looked dumb struck as I asked her, “What do you mean closing? Like for good?”
She replied, “You didn’t know? I thought everyone knew.” No, I really didn’t know. Things have been really busy at the plantation. And being so busy, it doesn’t allow me time to eat breakfast out. Which means I am always the last to know things here. Of course being on the plantation and isolated from the world is wonderful, but it does limit my knowledge of what is going on.
I spoke to Virginia, the co-owner and asked her if it was true. Virginia and I have been come friends and even share different recipes for things like scones. She told me that they had put it out on Facebook. Of course I try to keep up with other’s Facebook pages, but things still get past me. That and Facebook doesn’t always post all the postings from your friends on the News Feed like they use to do. So again, I missed out.
But this is truly sad. Virginia and Howard have been open for eighteen years and working there for twenty years when it was owned by someone else. They both have new jobs to go to. Some of the wait staff is retiring and others are now looking for their next job.
As I ate my breakfast, I listen to the conversation going on at the counter. This is how you find out things in a small town diner. The discussion was why they were closing. One thought was that there were too many similar restaurants in the area. There are a few Mexican, a few Italian and maybe one Chinese. But the thought was that because people go to these other locations more often, it was cutting into Howard’s business.
Was it because there was too much competition? Was it because of location? Was it because of the food style? How knows for sure. These days, with the Food Network and Cooking Channel, I think people’s palates are changing. I know my children, having grown up in a home where we cook with a lot of seasonings and spices as well as trying new things, are more into going to places that gives their palates a work out. Could this be the reason?
No matter the reason, one thing is true, the Great American Small Town Diner is on the decline. We are become a population that prefers convenience, fast and cheap. We are all on the move more, trying to get our kids to the ball field or dancing lessons or piano lessons. We try to shove as much into our days as we can. And in doing so, we shove out time to enjoy a meal.
It truly saddens me. I know things change and I am okay with change. But it is sad to see such a place that was the center of a community fall by the wayside. I really don’t think people will understand the loss until that one Saturday morning they get up and want to head down for breakfast. Where does the “heart” of a community go now?
I guess this means I am just getting older. (Notice I didn’t say old- I refuse to get old) But it is funny as I watch things that were staples in my life closing. This was just such a simple and good thing that I thought it would last forever. But one good thing about this is I got a chance to be a small part of it before the doors close. Now I can say, “Hey, do you remember Howards?”
Brett and I wish Virginia and Howard all the best. We also wish the wait staff much luck in finding their new path. We are going to truly miss this one spot in the world where things were simple and everyone knew everyone’s name.
Howard’s will be closing their doors on December 31st. Take a meal and enjoy the simple things in life before they are gone forever.
Check them out of Facebook and let them know how much we are going to miss them!