Terry's Cafeteria:
Once A Favorite Piqua Dining Spot

By Judy Deeter

PIQUA - Though it has been twenty years since Terry’s Cafeteria in Piqua closed it doors for the final time, local residents still remember the delicious food and good times there. 

This post card (top left) shows the way it looked for many years. The card features photographs of the restaurant’s exterior, dining area and banquet room. It was published by McGrew Color Graphics of Kansas City, Missouri. The year it was created is not known.

The cafeteria was founded on February 3, 1967 by Cleo and Shirley Terry. It was established as a corporation with backers John Beaver, William Hartzell, Sam Jackson and John Ramer. Operation of the cafeteria started at 6 a.m. on February 27, 1967; a grand opening was held from that day through March 2nd. A newspaper story in the Piqua Daily Call (February 27, 1967 and pictured above right) said it was “…the first such eating place in Piqua’s modern history….”  The article described the building as having “…a beautiful, walnut-panelled and rug-covered dining room, second to none to be found in any city of Piqua’s size in the entire Miami Valley.”   

Over the coming decades, it gained a reputation for mouth-watering home-cooked food and desserts. Eventually, it earned certification by the American Automobile Association. The excellent reputation and the AAA certification brought in visiting dignitaries, tourists and people from far and wide.

Seating capacity for the cafeteria was 350.  Sundays were the most popular day for dining. In the cafeteria’s heyday, 1,300 to 1,400 people were served on Sundays. 

Terry’s was a community social spot--a place for company and club meetings, banquets, birthday parties, wedding rehearsals, and sometimes card playing and dancing among friends.

A Piqua Daily Call story by Roberta Rohrbach (May 20, 1991) names several long-time employees: Tom Metz (manager and later owner), Amelia Gillis (head cashier and bookkeeper), Dan Craft (chef). Her article also says that each week the cafeteria roasted about 800 pounds of turkey and 1,200 pounds of choice boneless beef rounds.  She also mentions, “Other choice entrees at Terry's include both fried and baked chicken, chicken livers, baked ham, fried and baked fish, various casseroles, and many others to suite the taste of any customer.”

In the 1990s, more restaurants came to Piqua, particularly near Interstate-75. Competition for customers became fierce and profits dropped. On April 1, 1999, the decision was made to close the restaurant for good.  It closed a few days later on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999.  The last customer to be served was Tom Metz’s friend Dan Levering. This year marks the 20th anniversary of its closing. Though long gone, it is not forgotten.

The Piqua Public Library Local History Department has a file with Piqua Daily Call news articles about the restaurant.  The library is located at 116 W. High St. and can be reached at (937) 773-6753.

For more information about this article, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at tths@frontier.com.

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