Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chuck’s restaurant closes

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THE OWNERS of Chuck's Restaurant are retiring. The restaurant was first opened in the 1960s as a 24-hour pancake house. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

From page A3 | March 29, 2013 | 7 Comments

Chuck’s Restaurant, an iconic restaurant in Placerville for 50 years, closed on Saturday, March 23.

Located at 1318 Broadway, its current owner, Michael Tong, said he was retiring after running the restaurant for almost 20 years. On Monday, Tong and his family were at the restaurant cleaning it out and loading equipment into a truck. He was unsure if the owners of the building would try to re-open the restaurant under different management.

Chuck’s original owner was Chuck Bach who opened the restaurant in the 1960s. At the time, it was the biggest coffee shop in Placerville. Sam and Diane Wong then ran the restaurant in the late 1970s, followed by Michael and Yim Tong.

According to Laurie Smith, a waitress who worked there for 40 years, “Chuck’s has such a wonderful history. Originally it was a pancake house that was open 24 hours a day. It was packed day and night,” she said. But as more restaurants opened locally along with fast food outlets, it encountered more competition which she said led Chuck Bach to add Chinese food to the menu.

“It was difficult for us to see it close. Our customers were our friends. I’d love to see someone re-open it up and take it back to its roots,” said Smith.

Gwen Reid, another waitress at the restaurant, said the owners had told them the week prior that they were thinking of closing the restaurant in mid-April or May. But on Saturday, after the first shift, the Tongs decided “this was the day” and shut the restaurant down.

She said customers were as shocked as they were by the news. Contacting the Mountain Democrat, she said, “We felt we needed to get out the word and get some closure.”

Reid worked at Chuck’s for 14 years. “Economics had a large amount to do with it. Tong was ready to retire and with the economy being what it is, he just couldn’t cut it anymore,” Reid said.

She said she and the other waitresses hoped that someone else would take it over and improve the situation even if the Tongs decided to close the business.

“I’ll be 61 next month and this is the worst economy to be looking for a job, especially at my age,” said Reid. “We’re all in shock trying to figure this out.

“Chuck’s was middle America and a part of small town life. We celebrated customer’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries. We waited on four or five generations of the same family.”

“It was more than a job and more than a restaurant,” said Reid. “It was like a second home. For our customers, it will be life changing for some of them.”

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.


Discussion | 7 comments

  • Mike MMarch 29, 2013 - 10:55 am

    I didn’t even realize they had pancakes back when King Henry I was king of France.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • James E.March 29, 2013 - 11:17 am

    King Edward I of England, my wife's relative, was famous for his chocolate chip pancakes. You can have them today at IHOP (but, of course, not the original recipe which has been lost to history). UPDATE: Mr. Fred, age 13 this summer, is acting like a puppy again -- the wonders of dog medicine is beginning to equal people medicine.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • James E.March 29, 2013 - 11:38 am

    Strike "is" from previous comment.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • T PhippsMarch 29, 2013 - 6:53 pm

    Us "old timers" remember that before there was a chuck's Pancakes, there was a Chuck's Burgers in front, right next to the hiway. It did so well, that Chuck expanded to build the Pancake House...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • EDC JoeMarch 29, 2013 - 10:27 pm

    I;ve always known it as "UpChucks"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jim RiordanMarch 31, 2013 - 11:47 am

    Col. James. Happy to hear Mr. Fred is doing better for you.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Linda MApril 26, 2013 - 7:55 am

    This story makes me quite sad. I am 24 years old now.. and although I've moved away from Placerville, I grew up there for many years and my mother was a waitress. 20 years ago I was riding my tricycle through the aisles, changing the daily specials to flowers and eating as many strawberries as possible at the counter with my grandmother and all her friends. Everyone knew each other and your coffee stay would literally be hours. I still make it out there once a year. I've brought my friends during our Apple Hill road trips and I'm so glad to share part of my childhood with them. I love feeling like you've stepped back in time. The same pink and gold flake bathrooms, the same crack on the back of the toilet, retro lights and orange benches. I'll miss you Chucks. Lots of fond memories that will never be forgotten.

    Reply | Report abusive comment


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