Soon, there will be one less place in Grays Harbor County to eat delicious food, and imbibe on some cold drinks.
And for some, it means one less place to sit, relax, and have a cup of coffee with a friend.
Shelly Dayton, owner of Simpson Avenue Grill and Lounge, will close the restaurant on Sunday, June 26. The closure of the restaurant that’s stood just west of Simpson Avenue Bridge since 2014 is much to the dismay of many residents in the Twin Harbors, such as lifetime Hoquiam residents Al Dick and Louie Grant, who are Dayton’s “coffee guys.”
Grant and Dick have visited Dayton since she owned Lana’s Hangar Cafe, which closed in 2014 and made way for Simpson Avenue Grill. Both were sitting in their booth on Wednesday morning, June 22, when The Daily World dropped by to discuss the restaurant’s closure and what it means to the area.
“I come here and have breakfast seven days a week,” Grant said. “Now I’ll have to cook.”
Dick, who was sitting with Grant, peered out the large, east-facing window as he reflected on the years that he’s visited the place and how he’ll miss seeing Dayton’s smiling face the most.
“(I’ll also miss the) great coffee and the camaraderie with all the customers,” Dick said.
Dayton shared how her customers made for the most memorable aspect during her career as a restaurant owner.
“My favorite memories would be just watching my customers’ kids grow up, my employees’ kids grow up, and all of them becoming basically family,” she said. “I had a lot of employees over the years who have worked here through college and have moved on to have great careers.”
She’ll be serving them one last “Prime Rib Night,” on Friday. The last few days — Thursday through Saturday — have limited hours. Simpson Avenue Grill will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday’s hours will go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Dayton said her regulars, like Dick and Grant, have become family. She said she visited a customer, known as “Boots,” in Olympia when he was in a nursing home. She said she’d bring him food. Another customer, Butch Krohn, when he died, his family donated a sign to the restaurant that displayed the hats of other regular customers who had also passed.
“Then we had Gilbert Mitchell, who (came here) every day, twice a day, for years,” she said.
She said those men, along with others named “Bert,” and “Mike,” were staples to the business at Simpson Avenue Grill. They were not just “regulars,” according to Dayton. They were there every day.
“If they didn’t show up, I was calling them, and was like ‘Where are you? What’s the matter?’” she said. “It was like we were almost married, because some would (say) ‘I’m not gonna be here tomorrow, so don’t worry,’ and I’m like ‘OK.’”
And then there’s Dayton’s family, which she said is “large” and has been very helpful in any capacity to Dayton since she owned Lana’s Hangar Cafe in 2006, and then through her time owning Simpson Avenue Grill. They helped with washing dishes, and whatever else she needed.
In addition to the business itself, Dayton is what Dick called a “community activitist,” as she’s fed the Hoquiam High School Grizzlies football team, she’s hosted “Prom Breakfast” the day after prom for HHS students, as well as a “Giving Tree,” for local senior citizens and local children for seven years.
“We’re always giving back to the community,” Dayton said.
The Hoquiam staple is not the first in Grays Harbor-area restaurant to close its doors in 2022. Game Day Sports Bar and Grill, now reopen with new owners, closed its doors because of costs, staffing, and available product. Dayton said owning a restaurant in 2022 is not at all the same as it was in the past.
“Employees are really hard to come by in this industry,” she said. “And then the rising cost of food, the shortage of food, and trying to keep everything consistent. Trying to keep everything consistent has been a total struggle since the pandemic.”
Dayton said the price increases have really hit the business.
“Literally, if I kept raising my prices according to my food deliveries every week, I’d be out of business, because I’d raise myself out of business,” she said. “It’s just not the same.”
She pointed out that with the economy and the raising of prices for essential things, such as gas, that dining out is one of the first things people cut out, and Simpson Avenue Grill was not an outlier.
“Financially, we were fine because we own the business and have no debt,” she said. “It’s just getting more of a struggle and sometimes I’m working six-seven days a week. If I’m not working here, I’m still working.”
On the plus side, for Dayton, she said she’s ready to enjoy time with her grandchildren.
“Everybody asks ‘What are you gonna do when you leave?’” she said. “‘Have a sleepover with my grandkids. I’ve tried a couple times to have them sleep over at Grandma’s house, but it never fails. I get a phone call at 5 (a.m.) that somebody’s not coming in, so I have to drag them out.”
Dayton thought of keeping the business open, but she’s getting tired.
“I just want to be a grandma and enjoy life,” she said. “But it’s getting to be a struggle. It’s nothing like it was back in the day.”
After 27 years in the restaurant business, her first 11 as a server at Lana’s Hangar Cafe, before she bought the place in 2006, and then 8 years there before she and Keith Corder bought Simpson Avenue Grill, she’s ready to leave.
But, customers like Dick and Grant, aren’t so ready.
“It’s a sad day, because I always come here, and (when I’m here) I always see someone I know,” Dick said.