During the 30 years I was working in downtown Delaware, I ate a lot of lunches at The Brown Jug Restaurant (aka “The Jug”).
This was during the years from 1977 until 2008. In the ’70s it was mostly a bar, but it grew into a place that served good meals for the downtown working people.
At first, there were no hostesses, so you hoped to find an empty booth on your own. Everyone in town seemed to want to eat at the same time, so it was always crowded.
After many times of looking for a spot to sit down, we started talking to a woman named Ruthie, who was always eating alone. She invited us to sit with her, and our friendship blossomed from then on.
Soon other women who worked with us at Ohio Wesleyan University came by, needing a place to sit. By the time we were squeezing six into the booth every day, one of the owners told us that if we were going to eat there every day, he would give us a table of our own, that was near the back. Thus, the “Lunch Bunch” was formed.
The Brown Jug was our “home away from home.” Judy was our waitress every day. Once I asked her what she would recommend to eat that day, and she jokingly said: “I don’t know. I don’t eat here.” Once when I ordered cheeseburger soup, she told me that I didn’t like it the last time I had ordered it. She was right. Too much pepper for me. (I had forgotten that little fact.)
Over the years, we had lots of parties during our lunch hours. We always had cake for everyone’s birthday, as well as a special red and green pizza on our last day of work before Christmas. All our families knew where they could find us from noon to 1 p.m. If we were needed, they could call the Jug. (That was before the days of cellphones.)
Everyone always met there when we had our Willis High School class reunions. At our last reunion, we got to sit outside on the new patio at the corner of Sandusky and William streets and watch the lights come on in downtown Delaware.
Close to the end of our years of having lunch there, our Lunch Bunch dwindled down to about four or five and we no longer needed the table. Some women moved away and others retired. They were the ones who sent mail to the rest of us at the Jug. After everyone had read the cards, we stuck them behind the wooden cut-out of a Jug on the wall, to be found in later years.
With their business being so good, we assumed the Brown Jug would be there for a very long time to come. However, much to everyone’s surprise, on July 7, 2008, the Jug had been sold and would be closed as of the next day. So everyone spread the word to come to eat on that last day.
Our first thoughts were on how we were going to miss eating all their special soups and sandwiches and pizzas. But soon, the real loss of the Jug’s closing set in. We had lost our meeting place and no longer would be seeing all the friends we had made over the past 30 years. No more seeing the owners, Bill Stroud and Ed Wolf. They both had been there almost every day of those 30 years, taking orders, serving, making jokes, and singing “happy birthday” as only Ed Wolf could sing it.
No more seeing the downtown business owners who had kept Delaware open during the time the sidewalks and streets were torn up. They met there every Friday noon and also had their own table.
No more seeing those two sweet little ladies who came in just as everyone else was leaving. They were sisters and told me they often came in for an afternoon drink.
No more getting to know the faithful workers who made the Jug our “home away from home.” Our experience there was a little like the TV show “Cheers” — where everyone knew your name.
The Brown Jug building is empty now. One of the Jug co-owners, Bill, died last year. I used to run into the other co-owner, Ed, at Buehler’s, but that store is closed now, too. When I run into any of the other Jug patrons, we talk about our days there and how we still miss the life we had.
No more seeing those familiar faces sitting in their same booths waving to us, as we walked past them on the way to our table in the back every day.
As a wonderful gesture of friendship, a student from OWU sent me a copy of a book about the Brown Jug Restaurant. It contains recipes of many of their signature soups and sandwiches. Recently I had a homemade bowl of their wonderful “Poor Man’s Soup.” It was a tasty blast from my past.
My hope is that someone will come along and open it again. I know what we had at the Jug could never be duplicated, but it would be nice for any of the old patrons to have a place to go again. And who knows — maybe run into some of the other old patrons and talk about the good old days and how we all still miss “The Jug.”
Thanks to the owners — known to us as Red and Ed— and their families, for their hospitality in making our lunches the highlight of our working day in downtown Delaware for all those 30 years.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.