11016 W Akron Canfield Rd, Ellsworth, OH
By Kristine Gill
Heads turn when a newcomer crosses the threshold at Young’s Restaurant.
But the looks from regulars crowded around tables and spilling into booths in the tiny diner are friendly ones.
“There’s never a time you won’t know someone,” said Stormy Kale of Berlin Center. “Even if they’re new, they’re friends when they leave.”
But after Saturday, patrons new and old will have to gather elsewhere as Young’s dishes out its last breakfast, pours its final cup of coffee and closes its door after 68 years as an Ellsworth fixture.
“Customers have broken down crying in here when they heard the news,” said Susan Young, daughter of the late owner, Myron Young.
Susan, 56, worries it will be difficult to stay in touch with the people she’s served daily since she was 12.
“A young guy, just about 30, came in and said, ‘Where am I going to go?’ I told him he’d find another spot, but he said there’s not other place like this where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger and share a booth,” Susan said. “Where else can you go and do that?”
Rising costs and the passing of her father forced Susan and her mother, Elaine, 82, to make the difficult decision to close.
Myron died in October at age 83 after what doctors suspected was a second bout of the pancreatic cancer he’d once beaten. His wife has taken over as owner, but osteoporosis and arthritis have prevented her from helping her daughter behind the counter for some time.
“Daddy was a social butterfly for sure,” Susan said. “He loved this place. He loved this community.”
Ruth Keeler of Ellsworth heard many stories from Myron.
“If I ever got lonely I knew I could come here and Myron would be sitting right here,” she said.
All agree it will be difficult to walk out the door a final time Saturday evening.
“Just on a general day it’s hard to walk out. It can take three hours to get from that booth to the door,” patron Brenda Krol said, pointing to the far corner seat.
“We’re going to pitch a tent out front,” Keeler said.
“I’m still not cooking breakfast,” Kale reminded her husband, Roger.
Keeler and Kale don’t remember when they met or how long they’ve known each other. That day has been lost among countless others spent within Young’s cramped but comfortable walls.
Old photos of Susan’s grandfather Mac McJunkin hang on the far wall above a booth. He’s standing with two friends in front of his plane, a rare Lockheed Vega. The one Amelia Earhart flew hangs in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
“This is his pilot,” Susan said pointing. “He broke the plane. Crashed it.”
Atop the original counter stands a dusty watch display touting $10 timepieces that haven’t sold in years. The paint outside the building is peeling everywhere, and most letters from the diner’s name have long since fallen from the rooftop sign.
Susan said the place is often packed to its maximum capacity of 37 for breakfast when customers come in for famous home fries at 5 a.m.
“I’ve been told we have the best breakfast,” Susan said with a smile.
Originally purchased in 1944, the structure at 11016 Akron Canfield Road likely will have to be torn down by whomever buys the property, Susan said. Susan’s grandparents opened McJunkin’s Restaurant, named for Susan’s grandmother’s family, in a brick building across the street in 1943 and bought the current property the next year. When Myron bought the place off his father in the 1960s, he renamed it Young’s.
In a Feb. 17, 2004, Vindicator article, the then 77-year-old said he’d “be lost without this place and these people.”
Susan echoed the same sentiment.
“We’re just so grateful to all the customers who have become not just friends but family,” she said. “This isn’t just a restaurant.”
Young’s will close at 8 p.m. Saturday.