Finding family at Judy’s Family Restaurant in FruitaNov 23, 2020 01:49PM ● By Judie Chapin
While many patrons were sad they wouldn’t get to have one last meal at Judy’s, the community honored her with a proclamation earlier this year, recognizing her community service.
When Judy’s Family Restaurant closed in March, the Grand Valley not only lost a great place to eat—they also lost a gathering place for friends and family who regarded Judy’s as more than just a restaurant.
“I was blessed and honored to be a good, solid part of Fruita for so many years,” said owner Judy White, 76. “Everyone who came to Judy’s was family.”
Before she retired, White had been in the restaurant industry for more than 37 years.
Her informal culinary training came from her mother and grandmother on a farm in Wisconsin. She remembers learning how to use a potato peeler as young as 4 years old.
Her first foray into the restaurant business was opening White’s Steak House in Fruita in 1989. She later closed the steak house and moved to Arizona to manage a couple of restaurants. Eventually, she moved back to Fruita and opened Judy’s Family Restaurant in 2001.
Seven days a week, White started her mornings at the restaurant anywhere between 4:30 and 6 a.m. and didn’t leave until after 6 p.m. She maintained that rigorous schedule for 18 years. Her restaurant became the meeting place for many community organizations, family reunions and even weddings!
One wedding was particularly memorable. A young couple from Chicago was on their way to Las Vegas to get married when their car broke down in Fruita. The bride was from Poland and her passport visa was due to expire in a few days.
Luckily, they ended up at Judy’s. Relying on her friends in the community, White was able to get the legal paperwork for the ceremony and even wedding attire for the couple. The bride and groom were married at the restaurant in the presence of customers during the lunch hour. Tips earned that day went to the newlyweds, as well as gift cards from customers wishing them the best.
Local clubs would gather at Judy’s regularly for breakfast or after hours. Clubs like the Blue Knights, a retired police motorcycle club, and the Fruita Lions Club met in the big room after the 2 p.m. closing.
“I raised a lot of kids in that restaurant—from about age 14 through graduation,” said White. “Then they came back to visit and brought families of their own.”
The restaurant also hosted dinner theaters, cowboy poetry performances and other social functions for senior groups all over the Grand Valley.
A new chapter
COVID-19 played a part in White’s decision to retire and close the restaurant after 18 years. While many patrons were sad they wouldn’t get to have one last meal at Judy’s, the community honored her with a proclamation earlier this year recognizing her community service.
“Fruita City Council, on behalf of all Fruita residents, would like to recognize and sincerely thank Judy White for helping to build the sense of community and family that makes Fruita great and wishes her all the happiness she so deserves in her retirement,” the proclamation read.
“I am sad because our amateur radio club will have a hard time to replace Judy’s for our weekly Friday breakfast, but happy Judy can retire!” Frank Bregar wrote on Facebook, responding to the City’s proclamation.
White spends much of her new free time making memories with her four great-grandchildren.
“Health-wise, I’m great,” said White. “I’m still busy, but I get up at 6 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.”
Her customers, many of whom are also her friends, let her know how much they miss her when she runs into them in town.
“They were all my friends,” she said. “When you like what you do, time goes by fast.”
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