Judy’s family restaurant and the crying bride
Judy’s Family Restaurant in Fruita, Colo., is typical of most family-owned restaurants. You will find restaurants like this one in small towns, especially in the West. They are not franchises. There are no golden arches. There are no drive-up windows, nor flashing neon signs. If you can’t find it, ask anyone in town where Judy’s is located. They will readily give your directions to the small strip mall at the corner of Maple Street and Highway 6 and 50. It is the end unit off Maple Street where you’ll see the cars, vans, trucks or magnificent Harleys in the parking lot outside their front door.
Warm sunshine beams in through sparkling, Venetian blind windows, topped with checkered gingham valances. On the walls are hand-painted saws and framed pictures by local photographers and artists offered for sale. When you’re seated, one of the waitresses will greet you with a menu, asking what you would like to drink and reading the “specials” to you from the chalkboard list.
Good waitresses like hers are a valuable asset to any restaurant. At Judy’s place, each has her own personality: Toni, an attractive, tall cowgirl from California and Texas, owns nine horses. Cute Ladonna’s “thing” is she likes to wear colorful, “message” tee-shirts. Newcomer Trish, originally from Utah, with her curly hair and great attitude. (Ask to see the picture of her baby grandson, Silas). Charming Terri is the big football fan, both of the Broncos and her son’s football team, FMHS. And then there is darling Scotty, with her full Scottish brogue and her funny jokes. All these attractive gals, some young grandmothers, others mothers of school-age children, greet their regular customers by name, and sometimes adding a needed hug. They even know how you like your eggs and what kind of toast, “sourdough or wheat?” that you prefer.
We chatted with Judy, the owner, and asked when she came to Fruita and how she personally envisions her restaurant today.
“We moved to Fruita in 1977 and I got a job with the School District. I met so many people and their families,” Judy replied. “I get customers here that are third and fourth generations of people I know. We support FMHS, the Little League and the local Lions. We think it’s important to support the various community groups.
“I like to think of my restaurant as one of the small, hometown restaurants everyone used to visit on old Route 66, clean and simple, but with good, fresh homemade food, including our soups and pies. Some come for the sociability factor. We’ve met people who tell us their traveling friends have advised that if they drive I-70 from California to Denver, get off at the Fruita exit and eat at Judy’s Restaurant. That’s flattering to hear,” she grinned.
Judy shared details of the unplanned wedding held in her restaurant over four years ago. We call it “The Case of the Crying Bride.” A young gal and her boyfriend were eating, when she started crying. The concerned waitress asked, “What’s wrong? Can I help?” Drying her eyes, the gal shared her problem:
“We were on our way to Vegas to get married when our car broke down. They towed it here to the closest repair shop,” she pointed outside. “He’s closed! We’ll have to wait overnight for the car to be fixed. My Government visa passport expires this weekend. We started out in Chicago, where I lived with my uncle. That’s where I met my American fiance. We’ve got to get to Vegas or I will be sent back to Europe. Now we are STUCK,” she wailed, pushing aside her dish.
The sympathetic waitress headed into the kitchen, relating the story of the crying bride. The waitresses and Judy decided to help them. After explaining the dilemma to the customers, several customers volunteered to go out and determine what the car’s mechanical problem was. Returning, they announced, “It’s a broken fuel pump. We can buy one in town, get our tools and install it.” They readily passed a hat, collecting enough for a fuel pump and two new tires that they thought were needed.
While waiting, Judy called Janet at the Motor Vehicle Office, asking if she could bring the couple over to discuss what they needed to get married. After getting an affirmative answer, she dropped them off and stopped at Flowers By Jimmie on Aspen St. to talk to the owner, Jimmie Downer. Jimmie created a bridal bouquet of gorgeous roses.
Returning to the restaurant, the wedding was scheduled for 2 p.m., right after closing. The groom brought in their suitcases, so he and his bride could wear the clothes they’d planned to wear, using Judy’s restrooms to change clothes. The flowers arrived. Scotty, the waitress, decided the bride would need something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. She declared, “How about George as something old?” and the crowd laughed. “Here’s something borrowed,” said a customer, pulling a bracelet from her purse. Most of the customers elected to stay and witness the ceremony.
The young Chicago newlyweds were joyously surprised at the unexpected kindness they experienced on that sunny day in Fruita from strangers at Judy’s Restaurant. What a story the couple will have to tell their children!
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