Diner staff sad to see GM workers leaving the village


By Samantha Phillips

sphillips@vindy.com

LORDSTOWN

Nese’s Country Cafe, a couple of miles from the General Motors Lordstown plant, is warm and welcoming.

But lately, the mood among GM workers who frequent the diner is somber, said server Lisa Miller.

“It’s sad to see a lot of people having to uproot and move,” Miller said.

The end of Chevy Cruze production will impact this diner, where servers know customers by name and people bring their families for a homemade meal.

“Lordstown doesn’t have anything to bring people in anymore, so if you don’t work here, or you don’t live here, you’re probably not coming here. There’s not a lot of traffic,” Miller said.

GM LORDSTOWN THE LAST DAY

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The final Cruze rolled off the assembly line at GM Lordstown today. Workers gathered for a rally outside the plant.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill stopped at the diner for lunch Wednesday. He said Tuesday night was a largely sleepless night for him.

“People have known it was coming for a long time, but they’re kind of hitting the wall today; they’re wondering what comes next,” Hill said.

Yet he projects a cautiously positive outlook.

“I’m hoping we get a new product. They haven’t said they are shutting down for good,” he said.

Miller said the end of production at the plant is a “drop kick to the face” after people have been encouraged for so long to “Buy American” and after car companies were bailed out by taxpayers a little more than a decade ago.

She sees the sadness not just at work, but at home.

One of her neighbors had to transfer to another GM plant to support her family. She left behind two daughters, one in college and one in high school who wants to graduate with friends.

Patrick Hodovanic of Cortland, a diner patron who works at the Matalco plant nearby, said he saw seven to 10 people from GM and automotive-supply company Magna, which shut down in the wake of the plant closure, coming into his workplace with resumes.

“Everybody’s scrambling to figure something out,” he said.

David Martin of McDonald, another diner patron, has friends who worked at the GM plant.

“I knew a lot of people worked there, and it’s hard to understand how GM could make that decision with such a workforce,” he said. “In this area, you have qualified guys from engineers to people sweeping the floor – they were top-notch people. They worked hard and did their job.”

Down the road, a little closer to the GM plant, is the Our Place diner.

GM workers trickled in throughout the morning and afternoon as they finished producing the last of the Cruzes.

“There’s a buzz in the air,” said Jackie Woodward, Our Place manager. “People are talking about their hearts breaking. It’s like the feeling of going to a funeral.”

What fuels this anxiety is not knowing if the plant will close for good.

“It’s the worst poker game ever. You don’t know if you should sell your house; you don’t know if you should wait it out. What do you do?” Woodward said, sighing. Her father worked at GM for years before retiring.

Like Nese’s Country Cafe, Woodward knows the diner could be impacted by the plant closure.

“We rely on that traffic, so not having that will probably impact us in some way,” she said.

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