Jim and Nancy Sharpe opened the doors of Jim and Nancy’s East Side Cafe 53 years ago.
“That first day I came to work I thought I was hot stuff. I wore a red dress and high heels. That changed real quick,” NancySharpe recalled.
Nancy, who is now 81, can still be found at the East Side Cafe, but she leaves most of the work to others.
Sneakers became her footwear of choice in all the years she and Jim, who died in 1992, ran the eatery.
“It was a lot of work. It was also a lot of fun” Nancy said.
The men from the area factories and foundries would fill the cafe at lunch and for 35 cents have a hamburger and a draft beer. If the workers wanted to splurge, a roast beef dinner was 65 cents. That is the biggest change the Sharpe family has seen over the years, the closing of the plants that surrounded them.
The blue collar workers are seen a lot less at lunch.
Today they see a lot more tourists on their way to the nearby marinas.
Judges, CEOs and politicians eat at the cafe.
Like the business slogan reads, it’s “where the elite meet to eat”
To the Sharpe family and their employees, every one of the thousands of customers who have walked in the doors has been one of the elites.
“I am going to miss the people. Our regulars, we knew what they drank and where they sat,” said Kim Berning, who has worked at the cafe for 16 years.
The five Sharpe children, Candy (now a Howman), George, Jim, Jack (also known as Del) and Dan will also miss the place where they grew up. They lived in the rooms upstairs from the cafe.
“As kids we were not allowed in here; it was a bar, after all,” Candy said. “It was a treat to come downstairs. We just sat at the table and we ate or had a pop”
That is, until they got older and started to help waiting tables, washing dishes or whatever needed to be done.
“I am sad to see it go. I remember the pool leagues, the New Year’s Eve parties and the OSU games” George said. It is simply time to let the East Side Cafe go as it becomes harder and more costly to meet all the licensing and operating requirements, Nancy said. All good things come to an end. “Thanks for the memories,” George said.