On Wednesday, Leah Francis will supply her final barbecued pork ribs particular at Leah’s Kitchen & Catering earlier than the restaurant closes for good Friday as she and husband Randy retire.
“My ribs are good. They actually like my ribs,” she mentioned of her clients.
The Francises are hanging up their chef hats after 18 years working Leah’s Kitchen contained in the Fairway Middle in West Akron, which homes Summit County Public Well being.
“It has been lengthy but it surely’s been enjoyable. You must take pleasure in and love what you do,” mentioned Randy, 72, who calls himself chief cook dinner and bottle washer. He is been cooking since he was 18 and within the Air Pressure.
The small eatery, which seats 25, is understood for its selfmade breakfasts and lunches, served 7:30 am. to 4 p.m. Monday by way of Friday. For 18 years, Akron native Leah has carried out the soups, specials, salads and desserts, whereas Euclid native Randy has labored the grill making sandwiches and breakfast gadgets.
Leah, 67, additionally might be baking her final desserts this weekend for the restaurant, the place for practically 20 years she has created cheesecake, carrot cake, brownies and seasonal cutout cookies, sweets and truffles from scratch.
The story behind Leah’s Kitchen
The Francises met in 1981, when Randy labored at The Tavern and Leah labored at Schumacher’s restaurant, each at Quaker Sq.. They have been married the following 12 months.
The couple dreamed of proudly owning their very own restaurant however agreed to not do it till their sons Aaron, 39, and Shane, 38, have been out of college and their home was paid off.
With the restaurant about to shut Friday, well-wishers have been thanking the Francises for their years making the group home-cooked meals and congratulating them on their well-earned retirement.
“It is simply time. Your physique simply tells you that typically,” Leah mentioned Wednesday on the restaurant.
She’s labored seven days every week working the restaurant weekdays and baking on the weekends. Randy, who labored two jobs up till about six years in the past, was used to placing in 90-hour weeks working on the restaurant by day, adopted by a second shift at Union Steel.
As soon as the couple determined to retire, they spent the final 12 months searching for a purchaser for Leah’s Kitchen. They have not had any takers, so that they’ll be promoting their restaurant gear.
Retiree Charles Marshall of Akron mentioned retirees have cherished being regulars at Leah’s Kitchen, which he referred to as “one of many best-kept secrets and techniques round,” resulting from its low costs and scrumptious home-cooked meals and desserts. He is been consuming there for 5 years, gathering along with his cousin, Jack McDermott, in addition to his brothers.
“You are gonna damage my routine, you realize that?” Marshall jested to the Francises.
“We have met numerous good individuals right here,” Marshall mentioned. “We’re making an attempt to determine the place we’re all gonna meet” after Leah’s Kitchen closes.
At this restaurant, sandwiches run $3.50 to $8 and breakfasts from $3 to $8.50, which inspires repeat clients.
The Francises’ technique for conserving costs low is easy, Randy mentioned: “We do not overcharge and we’re out to make a revenue and a dwelling, we’re not out to make the large bucks.”
Various clients will take a chunk of Leah’s Kitchen with them. They have been shopping for Leah’s colourful espresso mugs and ornamental salt and pepper shakers, which embody a cute set that includes a crimson M&M character paired with a brown pack of M&M’s.
Some clients have requested the Francises in the event that they nonetheless plan to do catering out of their Akron dwelling.
The reply is not any, Leah mentioned.
“We are going to like the time without work at first,” she mentioned. “We are going to miss it, and we’ll miss our clients.”
Time with household in retirement plan
The couple, who stay in Akron’s Highland Sq. neighborhood, stress that they don’t seem to be going anyplace. They stay simply two blocks from son Aaron and their two grandchildren, ages 10 and 5, whom they plan to spend so much of high quality time with.
The Francises are wanting ahead to a household trip in Florida in June with their youngsters and grandkids.
After that, Randy mentioned, they’re going to be again in Akron stress-free and persevering with to spend time with their household.
Leah’s Kitchen & Catering has been a household affair, with sons Aaron and Shane, who each work on the Hilton Akron Fairlawn, serving to out at Leah’s over time and “nieces-in-law” Daybreak Darkow and Amy Darkow working on the restaurant. The household’s restaurant legacy will proceed with Aaron, banquet supervisor on the Hilton, quickly turning into basic supervisor of Crave at its new location on the Landmark Constructing in downtown Akron. Daybreak Darkow additionally will change into pastry chef at Crave.
Leah’s Kitchen & Catering, which opened in Fairway Middle in 2004, has expanded its kitchen over time. When Summit County Public Well being took over the constructing in 2014, the company needed a restaurant there, so Leah’s stayed.
That was good for enterprise, with SCPH workers frequenting the restaurant. Site visitors additionally continued for takeout orders throughout the first three months of the pandemic, since SCPH remained open. The Francises, in actual fact, fed day by day lunch to SCPH workers manning the telephones earlier within the pandemic.
The well-known have popped in at Leah’s, too: Proudly displayed on one restaurant wall is a 2017 photograph of former Cavs announcer Joe Tait with a chunk of pie with a candle in it celebrating his eightieth birthday. (Tait died final 12 months.)
The Francises are simply as proud as the general public servants who’ve patronized their restaurant. In honor of the firefighters who used to fulfill and prepare at SCPH, they created the Firemen’s Burrito, a breakfast burrito with hash browns inside slightly than on the aspect so firefighters may eat it simply throughout their conferences.
Leah mentioned the restaurant clients have been like household. She is aware of them by identify, enjoys working into them in the neighborhood and has seen their households develop up at Leah’s. They, in flip, have been aware of her household’s milestones.
“Congratulations,” buyer Mark Frey of Bathtub advised the Francises on Wednesday. “We’re unhappy you are leaving however we’re glad you bought to retire.”
Arts and restaurant author Kerry Clawson could also be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.