Months after closing in early April, assumedly because of COVID-19 shutdowns and lack of business, many speculated about when or if Azar’s Big Boy would reopen. Then, on Monday, June 8, social media was a-buzz with reports from unnamed employees that the infamous Big Boy in Waynedale would not reopen. A few days later, owner of the restaurant, George Azar, confirmed on their Facebook page that Azar’s Big Boy would be permanently closed.
“The coronavirus, while not the only issue, was significant. For our restaurant concept, 95% of our sates were dine-in and 30% came from our breakfast and salad bars. Going forward with the ongoing impact on public psychology I believe it is unrealistic to think that our business would not be negatively impacted,” Azar explained.
An icon of the Waynedale community, the “Big Boy” statue has resided on the corner of Bluffton and Lower Huntington Road since March 16, 1964, that is unless it was one of the years that it was “borrowed” by local high schoolers for a senior prank. The restaurant is the location of many fond memories for those who met there for business, shared family meals, and a local hangout for young people through the generations.
Originally located behind the existing structure as an “L” shaped building, Azar’s sat 68 persons inside and provided curb–side service for about 50 vehicles. In July of 1985, the existing structure was built to eliminate the curb–side service and expand the indoor seating to over 180. Later on, interior re-modeling was completed sometime in April 2000, transforming this “coffee shop” style restaurant into a “family style” restaurant. This was achieved by eliminating the majority of booth seats, creating more seating space, and concentrating on full service. The interior was enhanced in 2005 and 2010 to provide a more warm and inviting atmosphere.
“Our longevity was a direct reflection of our dedicated staff. Between [employees] Rose, Robin, and Colette they had a combined tenure of 99 years! In addition, our customers were extremely loyal and we loved being able to be a second home to many.” Azar continued, “I have always understood the importance of gathering places to their communities and knew that for many our Big Boy was your ‘Cheers’.”
The public outcry during the speculation and since the closure announcement has moved the many community members who were in disbelief to a state of grief and thanks. The business’ Facebook page is now a memorial for a restaurant that many feel near and dear to.
With the nearest Big Boy about a hour away, many have continued to speculate whether the buyer of the business will continue the Big Boy theme or start a new restaurant; or whether the lot will even be a restaurant at all, as the long-time rumors of CVS moving in resurface now that both the Azar’s and Umber’s Hardware lots are vacant. With their missing “for sale” signs, some say this may indicate that they have already been bought. However, Azar says that rumor is not the case, “While I don’t have anything concrete to tell you about what will replace us I can tell you with near certainty that it will be a restaurant.”
For those who still have gift certificates, Azar’s says to contact their corporate office at 260-424-1972 for a refund.
Although every community goes through changes as time goes on, there have certainly been some monumental changes to the “main street” of Waynedale recently. But, as the old adage goes, we as a community can hold on to our identity by shopping local and supporting the local businesses that we want to keep.
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