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'Ol Kettle Owners Retire – Denny's Moves In

OAKHURST – After nearly 30 years of serving the mountain community, Bob and Ruth Hillyard are about to hang up their aprons, and move on to the next chapter of their lives.

January 30th will be their last day of business at the ‘Ol Kettle, and the sale to the Denny’s restaurant chain will be final some time in early February.Ruth says the change is very bitter sweet. “We’ve been working every day for the last 28-plus years. We also have wonderful employees, and that part will be sad.”

But Ruth isn’t going to just sit down and take it easy, she’s already lined up a part-time job, and Bob says there’s an extensive honey-do list waiting for him at home.

Meanwhile, back at the ‘Ol Kettle, Denny’s will be moving in. The doors will be closed until some time in early May, while they do an extensive remodel, inside and out, complete with big-screen TVs, says Bob.

The Hillyards wanted to express their thanks to their community, their employees and their patrons in an open letter, which Bob wrote and shared with S|N|O:

On Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:00 p.m., the Hillyard family will be locking the front door of the Ol’ Kettle Restaurant to the public for the last time. It has been a long journey for us. 28 years, 4 months, and 18 days. But who’s counting? The new owners hope to have the restaurant re-opened by the first week in May, 2013 after extensive remodeling to both the interior and exterior.

Kettle Restaurant at Hwy 41 and Road 426 in 1989Ruth and I purchased the Kettle Restaurant with a second mortgage on our house on August 1985 and leased the old Holliday Village Restaurant for our business. It was at Highway 41 and Road 426 (Crane Valley Rd.) where the Rite Aid is now. Our lease was for a five year period and when the lease was close to running out, we began searching for a new location.

We came up with a piece of property in front of the Shilo Inn and Suites and began construction in March 1989. My brother-in-law, Don Timmer and I worked day and night to complete the job by Sept. 14, of that year. Ruth worked at the old location day and night while the new building was being built.

September 1989. Time to move. The rest of this part of the story was a lot of long days, hours and personal sacrifice for the next 24 years.

The Ol’ Kettle has been the longest single-family owned restaurant in Oakhurst, Ca. All of this was accomplished through the total dedication of the whole family.

Daughters Marnie Tashiro and Kendra HillyardAll four of our children have worked in the restaurant at one point in time. Our oldest son Sean helped with the construction and now is married with two children and lives in Plano, Texas. Our youngest son Danny is in the United States Air Force and is stationed in north Florida. Our two daughters, Marnie and Kendra, were the jewels of the Kettle. Everybody loves them and they helped to manage the business whenever Mom and Dad needed some time off.

Kendra Hillyard started work early at the Ol KettleMarnie is married to Todd Tashiro and lives in Three Rivers, Ca., where they run the local Pizza Factory. Kendra has a home in Coarsegold and is still working up til the final closing day. She is at present training to become a registered nurse. This was truly a family run business.

Ruths Mom Oma at the Ol KettleAt some time or another, your probably have seen an elderly lady serving drinks or other items to customers on weekends. This would have been Ruth’s mother, Oma. For 28 years this woman has worked every weekend. The family sends a special thanks to her. Her health has kept her home for the past few months. After all, she is 90 years old. Thanks again, Oma.

At this time the Hillyard’s would like to thank all of their employees who have worked for them. They give a special thanks to “That little blond waitress”, Dee Dee Angles.

Daughter Kendra Hillyard and long-time employee Dee Dee AngleFor 24 years, Dee Dee has given very special attention to her job and to her patrons. She has always been there for us and our family.

The Hillyard family would like to thank all our friends and customers who have supported us over years. Without them there would not have been an Ol’ Kettle.

Ruth and Bob Hillyard and their donations to Ronald McDonald House

For the last two years, the Kettle has collected aluminum can pull tabs from our local customers to donate to the Ronald McDonald House at the Children’s Hospital in the San Joaquin Valley. You may have noticed a 5-gallon jug by the cash register when you came in to the restaurant. The community filled up 31 of those jugs!

The Ol’ Kettle would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the service groups, clubs and church groups that have supported us over the years. Sierra Sunrise Rotary, Kiwanis, Soroptomists, Lions Club, Caring Vets, Road Rattlers, Romeos Men’s Club, and the Gideon’s just to name a few.

Ol Kettle RestaurantCustomers and friends ask us what we’re going to do now that we are closing the restaurant. To tell the truth, we just don’t know yet. Don’t be surprised if you see Bob riding his Harley through town or maybe find Ruth serving breakfast or lunch to people at one of the local restaurants. We do know that we want to spend more time with our family away from work.

Happy Trails

God Bless everyone and the United States of America

The Hillyard Family

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