Reflections: Al’s Restaurant brushed by tornado


By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

One of the more popular and longest serving businesses in Cardington was Al’s Restaurant. Located at 104 W. Main St., the building’s history began in 1945 when Paul Blair and Paul Fleming opened a restaurant in the frame structure and called it Hogan’s Grill.

It was headed toward failure when Al Denton, a novice in restaurants, purchased and the rest as they say “is history.” The business thrived and was featured in many area newspapers, including a visit by the popular restaurant critic, the Grumpy Gourmet. Al tore down the frame building and built a brick structure in 1963 opening as Al’s Restaurant as opposed to the earlier Al’s Grill.

On June 13, 1981, the tornado which followed a path into the village on U.S. 42 (West Main Street), destroying many of the two- and three-story business buildings on that route. The Wornstaff Hotel, a three-story building, stood across the street from Al’s and was totally destroyed.

Al’s suffered minor damage and was closed two weeks for repair.

Nevertheless, on that Saturday afternoon, two Cardington women were enjoying a mid afternoon snack in the restaurant and when they heard the “roar of a train” they instinctively crawled under the table and rode out the storm. They were so frightened they “walked out without paying their bill.”

They corrected this later but were so happy to be unharmed. Luckily, the restaurant was only one story.

Shirley Garrison, one of three daughters of Al, was living in Lisbon at the time, where her husband, Jim, was stationed as an Ohio State Highway patrolman. “When I heard about the tornado, I called Jim at the post and we drove to Cardington immediately,” she said, describing the chaos they found in their hometown.

Al’s continued serving up fine food but he passed the business on to his daughters and their families and they opened the business in 2001 in a new and larger building at 116 East Main Street.

Al’s Restaurant closed Feb. 14, 2010, after 64 years of business. Al passed away in 2005.

The building at 104 West Main Street continues as a business for R & G Massage Therapy.

Looking back 70 years ago: March, 1948: A Sadie Hawkins Day dance was taking place at the Cardington School. (For all of the “younger” readers this was a dance where the girls asked the boys for a date. I know, it sounds strange today but I can attest to the seriousness of asking a boy to a dance.)

Providing the music were members of the Cardington High School Class of 1948: Audrey Barton, Reita Sherman, Jean Campbell, Doyle Smith, Kent Curl, Bill Maxwell, Phyllis Koon, Clara Mae Ruehrmund and Kathryn Nybladh.

The 1918 Reo Fire engine, not in use since 1946, was sold by village council to George Ostrom for $100.

Carl Fowble, Mrs. Mellie Gist and Mrs. Nell Miller, all of Cardington, celebrated Leap Year birthdays on Feb.29.

REMEMBER WHEN: You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped without asking, all for free, every time? And you didn’t pay for air. And you got trading stamps to boot?

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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