August 1, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria’s Donna done with her diner

Donna Dove serves food in her Elyria diner in October 2012. Dove plans to close the eatery, most likely at the end of the month. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Donna Dove serves food in her Elyria diner in October 2012. Dove plans to close the eatery, most likely at the end of the month. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Donna Dove answered the telephone at her downtown Elyria restaurant Tuesday morning the same way she has for more than 14 years.

“Donna’s Diner,” she said with her usual upbeat demeanor.

But as the conversation quickly turned to the fate of the restaurant, which served as the backdrop for a five-part New York Times article that looked intimately at the lives of some Elyrians, Dove changed her tone.

“I’m tired. It’s been rough, and I think it’s time to retire,” Dove said.

The woman who has become the face of homestyle downtown dining said she is hanging up her apron and calling it quits. She doesn’t have a firm date set, but her food provider license expires Feb. 28, and she doesn’t think she will renew it, she said.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do it anymore, but it’s the people in Elyria,” she said. “They don’t support my business in a way that lets me pay the bills.”

Dove said a typical conversation normally goes something like this.

“What’s wrong? People love this place,” Dove said someone will usually ask her.

“Then I will always ask the same question,” she said. “When was the last time you came in here for a meal?”

Since the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Dan Barry graced the Times in October 2012 and Dove went from small-town to well-known restaurateur, she said business picked up. There was a steady stream for months — but not from the neighbors she knows well.

“They were from out of state and out of the country. They came because of the article,” Dove said. “But if I had that kind of business from the people right here in Elyria, I could pay my bills.”

Dove started the diner in 2000. She first made her home on Broad Street and those first few years were hard. She barely knew how to do her taxes or balance the books. Four years ago, she moved to the location at Middle Avenue and Second Street.

Dove said she has had hard times before but the last seven months after been unprecedented. The business has taken a hit as well as her personal life. She had four deaths during that time and needed knee surgery. It took her out of the business on too many occasions and that spelled a recipe for disaster.

She now hopes to sell the business and move on.

“It just breaks my heart,” she said. “But I’m just one person.”

Dove’s restaurant’s closure is just the latest in a long list of eateries that have not succeeded in downtown Elyria.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Mark B

    Wow i am shocked the art gallery and the transportation center didnt spur all kinds of business

    • Tom Williams

      Nothing shocking about it. People are getting out of town

      • Earl K.

        Yeppers. Keep raising taxes Elyria! We just got hit with another one for LCCC. As I have said before, my house payment has gone up over 20% in the 4+ years I have lived here–entirely due to levies. I am soon to be gone as well.

  • GreatRedeemer

    Nobody goes downtown anymore.

    • Zen_Grouch

      I do, but just when I’m “lonely”

  • Arietta Sullivan

    unfortunately, there isn’t much entertainment&places to shop,inside or through a window. this would be a big plus for downtown elyria&it is a ghost town anymore.the parking can be a hassle too.i have never tried Donna’s Diner,personally,because of these reasons.

    • Carrie Watson

      I had lunch there one day while I was at a workshop at the Administration building. Her food and the service were very good. I would have been back, except that I’m generally asleep or in a field practicum during the hours that she is open.

    • Zen_Grouch

      We aren’t ghosts, we just do our business in the shadows

  • SniperFire

    Perhaps when the Mayor spends $10 million on the train station to expand downtown ‘foot traffic,’ it will revitalize the downtown economy as she stated.

    • Joe Smith

      I hope that was sarcasm.

      • Zen_Grouch

        How would you be able to tell anyway?

  • Dee Jones

    What a shame, Donna you will be missed!!

  • Tom Williams

    If you want to retire , I can appreciate that. But if you want more move your location to where there’s more money and more appreciation for your type restaurant. It’s a fact , most people in this area are not attracted to anything that is good. You worked hard and deserve better. Im a small business owner in elyria also, not one red cent of my business is supported by Elyria. That is how I have survived

    • http://jstech.co Alex Paine

      very correct i cannot trace a dollar back to any elyrians on my end either.

      • Mickey Mouse

        I experienced the same thing as Donna did so I got out too. The people of Elyria only support ya when you are giving it away.

        • Zen_Grouch

          I’m giving it away – but only to guys.

      • luvmytoaster

        I’m not saying that you are wrong – but how do you know that you weren’t supported by Elyrians?

        • http://jstech.co Alex Paine

          because i get direct analytics i ask people where they are from and etc plus my visitors are not usually from elyria on the site [they're still in ohio just no elyria]

    • John Davidson

      If you all got together get a liquor license and open a bar, sell drugs on the side, I am sure that you could make plenty of money in Elyria.

  • Peter Aldrich

    She has noone to blame but herself. The place cpuld work. I could make it work. Anyone back me? I obviously know the place and most of the inner workings……

    • stillsleepyeyes

      always sounds good when your using some one else’s money……………

      • Peter Aldrich

        I had $60,000 stolen from me in a deal gone bad trying to buy a restaurant before. Cost me that and a lot more….

        • Zen_Grouch

          Go figure. UR a tool

        • Pablo Jones

          So you could make the place work, but you let someone steal $60,000 from you. I don’t think that is something that happens to the successful business people.

          • luvmytoaster

            I think you are talking about two different people – “Guest” said that they could make it work, “Pablo Jones” had money stolen.

    • Busybtattoos Bodystylz

      really?…u know how it is? what business have you ever owned or ran? enlighten me oh great one. I have owned a business in Elyria and Elyria is just a huge joke after the city has forced to shut down certain businesses. Elyria is a huge down slide and will very soon hit rock bottom like a little town called kipton by Oberlin. im sure u never heard that town either. they lost the only bar they had, the only police staff they had (they have none now) and don’t even have a post office. so really tell me how u could make it work?..donna is a smart and hard working business woman who has tried everything from specials to car shows. none has worked. SO IM WAITING, HOW COULD U MAKE IT WORK GREAT ONE?…I DIDNT THINK SO. no need to comment if u have no idea what ur talking about!!

  • Mark B

    Not to mention that every time you turn aroud you are getting a new tax levy and your taxes raised.

  • 2111

    There are plenty of businesses that have survived in Elyria for many years. I find it laughable that she wants to blame the city for not supporting her. She is the one that picked the location not her customers.

  • Peter Zbasnik

    The store fronts are empty, even at the mall. The city is in decline and there is no easy fix. No jobs, real estate values down (real down)- where is the incentive to invest even in the local housing market. Bad news from Donna but not shocking at all. There is a young man that has an organization called “Invest Elyria” he at least tries to talk up the place. It is not bad place it needs industry that pay a decent wage. A lot of the people who have hung in there are succumbing to the lack of money flow- there is now very slim pickings to buy local, there is no local. The hardware store hangs in there and a couple of furniture stores and cell phone shops, not. much else. Thanks Donna for all you have done.

    • Pablo Jones

      Elyria needs a downtown train station. That will turn things around.

      • Sis Delish

        I agree… A downtown Train Station will fix everything! The Democrats will be able to import workers from outside the U.S. more easily and without the necessary documentation. That’ll certainly fix things in E-town.

        • Michael A. Figueroa

          What, exactly, have your beloved teabaggers done for Elyria?

          • Sis Delish

            I would suggest they did what any intelligent citizen would do, they left! Now, how does a name-calling, limited IQ democrat-dependent poster respond to no longer having anyone to blame for their miserable fate except themselves?

  • Sis Delish

    Gee, if I continue to vote for Democrats, would that speed-up the elimination of all those evil, money-grubbing, capitalistic small businesses? Huh?? You Betcha!

  • Jason M. Schmidt

    She should open at 3 AM to cater to all the Amtrak foot-traffic.

  • proccw

    hate to hear this! she had good food and good prices. good luck in your new ventures

  • Simon Jester

    If downtown Elyria less resembled a 3rd world s***hole, I imagine we’d have better luck keeping businesses around.. (Moss’s can go jump in the lake, I wouldn’t patronize them in any location).

    Keep voting straight ticket Dem though, enough Socialists and raised taxes, and I’m sure everything will work out…..