T Meldrum’s restaurant waitress Carol Johns finishes 48-year race

MASSILLON – Carol Johns, or “CJ” as her longtime colleagues and clients call her, has served tables at the family-owned T Meldrum restaurant for nearly five decades.

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Her 48 years of work came to an end last week, as Johns, 82, worked her last shift with the people she calls family.

“They are friends who have worked with friends for so long. We really are family,” Johns said, speaking of his life’s work Friday afternoon surrounded by friends, colleagues and loved ones.

Third-generation T Meldrum restaurant employee Spencer Johnson, 19, works at the cash desk.  Massillon Restaurant opened in 1969 at 2144 Wales Road NE.

“You could say that I am the peaceful and warm old lady of the group,” she added with a smile. “They call me the ‘mother of work’ (here).”

Meldrum’s employs around two dozen workers at 2144 Wales Road NE. The restaurant, which opened in 1969, is perhaps best known for its buttery fries, according to Johns.

Waitress Rachel Smith echoed Johns’ sentiment about the restaurant’s family atmosphere.

“We are primarily known for our family,” Smith said. “Everyone ended up here.”

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In the early 1970s, Johns was attending church with one of Meldrum’s first employees when she heard that a waitress position was open. She started working soon after, and initially used her salary and tips to “help pay the bills.”

In his nearly 50 years at the restaurant, Johns said, his biggest and most memorable tip came a few years ago. It was a tip of $ 100.

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That meant more sharing the $ 100 with coworkers than receiving it from the client, Johns recalls.

“We just shared it with everyone,” she said.

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The faces and food orders of customers are easier to remember than individual names, Johns said, noting that the most famous customer she had expected was likely David Canary, a 1956 Washington High School graduate and former gamer. star of the Tigers.

Canary left Massillon for Hollywood to star in the popular television series “Bonanza” and later in the soap opera “All My Children”.

New property overcomes COVID-19 shutdown, adds small retail store

Owner Jill McCauley is the niece of Meldrum’s restaurant’s first owner, Tom Meldrum, who ran the business for 50 years.

McCauley resumed business operations in November 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. She said COVID started out as a nightmare.

“I wouldn’t have bought the place if I had known COVID was coming,” she said. “But we succeeded and we came out of it stronger.”

Pandemic causes change, future expansion

The transition from a daily sit-down dinner to a delivery operation during the COVID crisis was onerous, McCauley said, but the reopening in spring 2020 has brought positive changes.

Meldrum’s has added a small retail store inside, which sells coffee, mugs, local chocolates, photo frames and more. An outdoor rest area is coming further this year, she said.

McCauley, who works primarily from home and runs another business, said his daily “happy moment” often comes to restaurants.

“Sometimes the best part of my day is coming here in the afternoon and smashing a few tables,” she said.

Join Steven at [email protected].

On Twitter: @sgrazierINDE

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