Customers rush back to iconic Bixby diner
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Monday, December 03, 2012
12/03/12 at 4:12 AM
BIXBY - Scott's Hamburgers reopened to a frenzy two weeks after closing following the deaths of its longtime owners.
"It was crazy," said Tonya Ladd, who was working when patrons filled the diner to capacity Nov. 7. "People came back to pay their respects, support us getting open again."
The downtown Bixby icon shut its doors during lunch hour Oct. 24 when employees learned that Kenny and Glenda Simmons had died within hours of each other.
Glenda Simmons, 64, had a heart attack that morning at the side of her husband, 69, who was in the hospital nearing the end of a battle with cancer.
Family friend Dale Merkt, who already planned to buy the business after Glenda Simmons' planned retirement in January, brought everyone back to work. Now the goal is to keep the diner open "for another 30, 32 years," he said.
"It's what Glenda would have wanted," he said. "Keeping the tradition going."
Merkt said the question of ownership is in the hands of the state because the Kenny and Glenda Simmons had no will. Their daughter, Kristie Robinson, said the diner is considered under new management but is not for sale.
For now, at least, patrons can enjoy the same fare that has been served in Bixby since the early 1960s, when Scott's was a Tastee Freez, Merkt said.
"Nothing's really changed," he said. "Same menu, all the same employees."
Merkt, who said he has been an off-and-on employee at the diner for years, had been working consecutively for two months when Kenny and Glenda Simmons died.
When a phone call notified employees of the deaths at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, "we shut off the sign, finished serving everyone and closed and didn't come back till the seventh (of November)," Merkt said.
"It was all emotional."
Ladd said she and other employees were stunned. Glenda Simmons had planned to retire Jan. 1 and hand operations to Merkt.
"We were expecting Kenny," Ladd said. "We were in shock because we weren't expecting Glenda."
The couple purchased what would be Scott's Hamburgers in 1998 and moved it from 151st Street and Memorial Drive to 15 W. Dawes Ave. in 2003.
Bixby Mayor Ray Bowen said he encouraged the couple to move at the time because he knew their large customer base would follow, potentially bringing life to downtown.
"I've known them both and probably was one of the main reasons they moved," he said. "It's done really well and I hope it continues. It really is a great destination point for our downtown."
The couple, he added, were a cherished part of the community.
More than 600 people attended the funeral in Sapulpa, and more have since come to the diner to offer condolences, Ladd said. They were so loved that some regulars say they have found it too difficult to return, she added.
"With 600 people at the funeral, you know they were very much a part of the community," Ladd said. "We still get sympathy, hugs."
After a busy first week back, mealtime crowds have begun returning to normal, Merkt said. More new people seem to be getting hooked this time - likely people who had heard about the deaths in the news, he said.
"If you shut down for a few days, customers come in and they have to get their fix," Merkt said. "That's what they call it - their fix."
Original Print Headline: Customer loyalty
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Dale Merkt is the manager of Scott's Hamburgers in Bixby and hopes to someday be the owner. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World