Area residents were invited to gather at the Quakertown Historical Society on August 12 to share their memories of Meyers' Family Restaurant, which shut its doors in December 2003.Joseph A. Meyers opened the restaurant back in 1950 on Route 309, just north of Quakertown. Ownership of the restaurant passed to his sons, Jerry and Joe, when Joseph passed away in 1987.
Jerry Meyers was present at the Historical Society to share his experience of running the family business. "It's nice to know people still remember it," said Meyers, although he confessed that the final years of running Meyers' had taken their toll. "For the last five years or so, the restaurant was so hard mentally on me and everybody involved," admitted Meyers. "I miss the people and I miss the operation, but it just got too far ahead of us. We just couldn't do it anymore."
Despite the stressful last few years of the restaurant's existence, Meyers wanted to be fair to his employees and his vendors. Even though he owed money to the IRS, Meyers was determined to pay the money he owed to the people who worked for him before he paid his back taxes. "We kind of worked ourselves through that," said Meyers, "but it was really hard. The sad thing is that Meyers' restaurant doesn't exist anymore, but the good thing is that we were able to pay everybody in the end. That was our goal."
The most heartbreaking experience Meyers had while closing the restaurant was the auctioning off of much of the business's equipment and memorabilia. "I think I went over there that morning to the auction to make sure everything was set up and then I left," said Meyers. "I just didn't want to be around. That was one of the saddest things to see everything go."
While the evening at the Historical Society was tinged with sadness over a lost landmark, Meyers was able to lighten things up a bit with some funny and inspiring stories about the restaurant.
Meyers recalled that when he was a child his family lived in an apartment above the restaurant. "We also used to have a banquet room upstairs," said Meyers, "but they had to walk through our house to get to the banquet room. So while we were there watching TV these people would come walking through the hallway.
"You could never get away with that today," laughed Meyers.
Another story involved the incident of a tractor-trailer that crashed into the front of the restaurant early one morning in January 2003. Fortunately, no one was in the restaurant at the time. Meyers received a call about the accident and when he arrived at the scene there seemed to be at least three fire companies gathered there. Meyers said there were so many flashing lights that "it looked like a carnival."
"We had a banquet that night with one of the fire companies," continued Meyers. "So one of the firemen came up to me and asked, 'Are we going to have our banquet?' and I said, 'Yes.'" Meyers and his staff were inspired to make sure the fire company would get their dinner. "We worked like crazy," he said. "We took plywood and took off the front porch. At that point the dust was just all over the place. But we worked all day and we opened back up at 6 p.m. just in time for the banquet."
Many former customers and a few former Meyers' employees shared their own memories of the restaurant. Among the favorite things discussed were the dinner theaters, the wine tasting, the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, the Soup and Apple Dumpling Tuesdays and the Clean Plate Club for kids. One of the things most discussed was how much everybody loved Meyers' bakeshop and how many people missed not being able to order their holiday pies from Meyers' anymore. The week of Thanksgiving was the busiest time for the bakeshop, according to Meyers. "We would start baking on Monday, around the clock, never going home until Thursday," he said. "As soon as we pulled pies out of the oven we put fresh ones in."
A special treat for the evening was a videotape recorded by the Historical Society of Meyers' Restaurant on the last day it was open to the public. The tape featured images of the restaurant from Route 309, as well as many interior views of the business, showcasing the banquet hall, the dining room, the busy kitchen and the popular bakeshop.
"We do our best to save the vanishing landscape," said Nancy Roberts of the Historical Society on the importance of archiving Quakertown's lost treasures. "I miss the family restaurant. It's great to still be able to see the old things that were once here."
Eric Asaris is a freelance writer for The Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.