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Monday, May 2, 2016

Bon Ton has served Bainbridge for nearly 73 years

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In January 2009 the Bon Ton Restaurant in Bainbridge would have been 73 years old.

That is, if it were still open.

The landmark business went on the auction block this week.

Gene Hess opened the Bon Ton in January 1936. At that time, Bainbridge had a lot of traffic running through the town on U.S. 36.

"That was long before Eisenhower and the Interstate system," said Gene's son, Joe Hess.

In those days, the restaurant was an old trolley car and was open 24 hours a day. Business was brisk, with the restaurant filled daily with local residents and many travelers.

In 1945 Hess sold his business to a fellow who worked for him. The trolley car burned in 1947.

Hess, who was then in the construction business, built the building where the Bon Ton now stands, and the restaurant was back in business.

"Of course, it didn't look quite the same as now. It's been added on to since then," said Joe, who appeared before the Bainbridge Town Council recently to ask if there was anything that could be done to keep the building as a restaurant.

"I can remember going in there when I was a young boy and not having anyplace to sit because it was so crowded," said Town Marshal and Bainbridge resident Rodney Fenwick.

But, as with so many small town businesses along state highways where the traffic moved to the interstates, business at the Bon Ton fell off.

Eventually, it remained open only for breakfast and lunch.

"There are still a lot of people who go there, but people have to help them keep the doors open by going," said Joe. "When people don't go to the local business they can't keep their doors open."

The restaurant has been for sale for several years. An option to purchase it was made by a couple from Roachdale but their plans for the building are unknown.

"It's a pretty vital part of the community. We all hate to see it go," said Town Clerk Jason Hartman.

The business is zoned B-3, and that means no multi-family dwellings or single residences are allowed.

Joe's hope is that the new owners will recognize the importance of the restaurant to the community and find someone to re-open the Bon Ton.

In the meantime, he is waiting and hoping someone can come up with a viable plan to reopen the restaurant.

"Patience is a virtue and I'm afraid I'm not very virtuous," he said. "I'm hoping we can find a way to save the Bon Ton and find it soon."

If the potential buyer's bid is not accepted, local residents hope some plan can be put together to save the restaurant. If the bid is taken, they hope the new buyers will consider finding a way to keep the restaurant in Bainbridge open.

"We tend to forget to take care of our own," Fenwick said. "People go to the big superstores in Avon and then eat there. We get busy and forget to take time to support local business. We're about to lose something we really did value and just realized how much."

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I hated to see Prevo's, Ann's, Coen's Drug Store, Stop n Shop, and several locally owned businesses go out of business, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I also hate to see the Bon Ton go, but I don't think the town should not let the zoning be changed because they are mad that the new owners won't keep it a resturant. I'm sure they purchased the building to try and make money not lose it in foreclosure due to not being able to get it re-zoned. Wasn't it Bob Dylan that said "Times are a chang'n"?

-- Posted by dcsaiht on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 8:40 AM

First the Bon Ton and then, ummm.....help me on this one

-- Posted by iloveblacks on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 10:06 AM

the tap?

-- Posted by dcsaiht on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 1:56 PM

Im sure the new owners will continue to run a great restaurant for the community.

-- Posted by indtonyc on Sat, Dec 13, 2008, at 3:07 PM

Does the town of Bainbridge have a suggestion for the parking issue at the BonTon? Does anyone understand the concept of "land locked"????? Is the old BobKat store available to be attached to the BonTon...or torn down for parking?

What Bainbridge needs is a REASON to go to Bainbridge...or at least a reason to stop while driving through the town. What about a safe place for a teenager or pre-teen to go and socialize, dance, laugh, study, etc.... Think, people, what is really needed in the community?

-- Posted by 06purple18 on Mon, Dec 15, 2008, at 12:36 AM

I have been told that the new owners have found a way to keep the Bon Ton open as a restaurant...thank you! I am thrilled to hear this news!

I am all for the zoning to not be changed in this case....not just because it won't be a restaurant, but because nearly the whole downtown is already apartments! It is very sad to see this....we DO need things in Bainbridge to keep it a viable community and the Bon Ton is needed to help with that, not another apartment!

And actually, I think the amount of parking available for the Bon Ton is adequate given the limited amount of seating there anyway.

Times do change, that is true...and sad that they do at times. Superstores and chain restaurants take the place of hometown-grown businesses....and unless we stand up for them, it will continue to happen! So, again, I thank the new owners for keeping the Bon Ton Restaurant open as a landmark for our community. It means alot to so many.....

-- Posted by John3:16 on Mon, Dec 15, 2008, at 9:24 AM

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