DESLOGE — Ed Bannister is about to open a business he hopes will take people back to a simpler, happier time — the 1950s.
Ed, along with his wife, Terri, and mother, Bonnie Bannister-Weir, will be opening a new restaurant in Desloge within the next few weeks which they’re calling “50s Diner.”
The Desloge native said the restaurant’s opening will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“I always wanted a 50s diner,” he said. “Since I was young I always wanted to do something creative.”
Ed and Terri already owned the building at 201 N. Desloge Drive where they had run a pawn shop for a few years. After the business was broken into a few times, the couple said they finally got tired of it.
“We thought we’d try something different — maybe get a different crowd,” he explained. “Me and my mom were sitting in the building one day and she said, ‘Let’s open up an ice cream parlor and restaurant.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and I took the idea to Terri.”
His wife’s reaction to the news wasn’t as positive as Ed and Bonnie might have hoped.
“I was shocked,” she admitted. “I had no idea the conversation was taking place between he and his mom. I was at home and they came in and said they wanted to talk to me about something. They asked me what I thought about opening a diner. Then I just laughed and cried.”
Once the tears stopped, Ed, Terri and Bonnie quietly got to work.
“It’s been in the making for a year and a half, but nobody knew it,” Terri said. “We never told anybody about it.”
The trio knew that if they wanted the diner to have a genuine ’50s feel, they’d have to began searching high and low for fun and fanciful items with which to decorate the restaurant.
“I’d kept a lot of stuff from the pawn shop, but we also traveled from one state to another to find stuff,” Ed recalled. “We looked everywhere. Me and my mom went to auctions and bought stuff. We looked in the paper to find out about auctions. We went to different states and got all our stuff. It’s a lot of fun to go and try to find a lot of ’50s stuff.”
“The traveling to find the different items was the best part,” said Terri.
Ed said there were other big jobs that had to be accomplished and more practical items to buy.
“When I came in I started with the checkered floor,” he said. “As I went along I said, ‘I want to do this and I want to do that.’ Then I started hunting for tables and booths. They came from two different places.”
The restaurant is filled with a large assortment of ’50s memorabilia. A person could spend a visit or two checking out the different items — and even then they’d be sure to miss one or two.
“When you walk in, you’re going to be taken back to the ’50s until you walk out,” Ed promised. “With the lights and the music playing — you’ll have that vibe when you walk in. I always liked the way it was back in the ’50s — laid back — you didn’t have to lock your doors. Things were simpler. It was a really neat decade.”
Standouts include a colorful reproduction of a vintage Chevrolet’s front end, a clock from an old diner, a genuine Wurlitzer jukebox and a TV from the ’50s endlessly playing Abbott and Costello movies and other comedy favorites from the decade. Looking closer, however, the TV isn’t what it first appears to be.
“We bought the ’50s TV and it worked until it heated up,” Ed explained. “So, Terri came up and said, ‘Let’s just cut it in half and put it on the side of the building.’ I knew it wouldn’t last outside, so I came up with the idea of just putting a flat screen behind it and hanging it on the wall.”
“It gives you the illusion of watching an old TV,” Terri interjected. “It just worked out that the flat screen was a perfect fit behind it.”
And as for the food?
“It’s mainly going to be ’50s foods like hamburgers and hot dogs,” Ed said. “We’re also going to have slawburgers, chili burgers, funnel cakes, chilidogs and slawdogs. On our specials we’ll have pork loins, ham and beans, stuff like that.”
In addition to the comfortable cuisine, “50s Diner” will also be serving breakfast featuring a menu of all-time favorites like Belgian waffles, biscuits and gravy and omelets.
“We’re also going to have a full-blown ice cream counter here,” Ed revealed. “People can get their ice cream inside or walk up to an outside window where they can order there.”
The food is even going to be prepared and served in that unforgettable ’50s style.
“Our waitresses will be in poodle skirts,” Ed said. “The cooks will be in full-blown chef outfits. The busboys and the short-order cooks will have aprons, bowties and soda jerk hats.”
The diner is also going to feature live entertainment.
“We’re going to be doing comedy shows and comedy dinners,” Ed said. “Elvis will be here. There will be a comedian who’s also a magician. That’s why we have show lights up on the ceiling. House lights will shutoff and the show lights will come on. We’ll have two shows a night — at 6 and 9 p.m.
Terri added, “There will also be no smoking and no alcohol. The diner is going to be family-friendly all the way.”
If all this sounds like it’s going to take a bunch of hard work — you’re right.
“There’s a lot to this,” Ed admitted. “Terri’s going to be doing the paperwork. There’s going to be a lot of office work. There will be ordering and taking care of all the employees. We’re walking into this knowing it’s going to be really hard and overwhelming. We have a little background in restaurants and we both have management degrees. We know what we’re getting into.”
While Ed and Terri will have plenty of work to do, Bonnie will also have an important job.
“Bonnie is going to be one of our hostesses,” Terri said. “She’s even got a poodle skirt.”
Eighty-one-year-old Bonnie, a Georgia native, seems to have the most important job qualification for a hostess — friendliness.
“I’m a people person,” she admits. “Most of my working career has been in the medical field, I’ve been around a lot of people and I love people. I like to talk.”
While “50s Diner” is going to be a lot of fun, the three owners are also wanting to do something to make a positive difference for others. It’s a part of the restaurant that could be the most significant of all.
“We’re going to put a movie theater in the back,” Ed said. “You can bring your lawn chairs and blankets. The screen is going to be 20-foot wide by 14-feet high — about the size of a regular movie screen. Proceeds from the theater are going to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. We’re not even going to set a price. We’re going to do donations. I know people are going to come, but I want people to know what we’re doing. We’re not making a thing.”
Terri added, “That may encourage people to come. It may encourage them to give and not watch the movie. When our girls were in school they’d do the Walk-a-Thon each year for St. Jude’s. I was always active with the girls with that. Then you see the commercials on TV with the sick children and it just breaks my heart.”
After garnering nearly 4,000 “likes” on Facebook, Ed says the question they hear most often is when the “50s Diner” is going to open.
“We’ve just gotten our ice cream dip cabinet in late last night,” he said. “We just got our vent on top of the roof and we put that on. The weather has really hit us hard. It was supposed to be open in March. Let’s just say it will be in a couple more weeks.”
Bonnie jumped in, saying, “I figure that if everybody comes that’s been asking about it, we won’t have room. We’ll have to put tables outside.”
“When you walk in, you’re going to be taken back to the 50s until you walk out.” Ed Bannister, 50s Diner co-owner
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com