Monday, June 25, 2012

Prairie Village Waid's closes suddenly, but predictably

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 4:51 PM

No more chili dog deluxe in Prairie Village...
  • No more chili dog deluxe in Prairie Village...

A business card is still taped to the locked front door of the Waid's restaurant in the Prairie Village Shopping Center. Bev left it for her friends Ev and Lou, telling them to meet her at First Watch in Corinth. Bev, like many other diners, was taken off-guard by the Sunday-night closing of the Waid's in Prairie Village.

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All good things must come to an end ... and in the case of the venerable Waid's restaurant at 6920 Mission, it ended long before the restaurant finally - and quickly - closed last night. The restaurant's cashier got a late-night phone call on Sunday telling her not to report for work on Monday but to go to the last remaining Waid's in the metro at 1130 West 103rd Street.

"We knew it was coming," she told me on her way out for a smoke break this afternoon. "We just didn't know when. The restaurant had been on a month-to-month lease with the landlord for a long time."

Once a popular neighborhood-diner concept, dating back to 1953, there had been at least five area Waid's restaurants in the 1980s, including two venues in Johnson County (the one at 95th Street and Mission was the unofficial office for Tom Leathers, the iconoclastic publisher of the Squire weekly newspaper) and a Kansas City, Kansas, location at 3063 Southwest Boulevard. The restaurants were best-known for their hearty breakfasts, home-style dinners and modest prices. The remaining Watts Mill Waid's survived a move, over a decade earlier, from 103rd Street and Wornall.

Earlier this year, Internet publisher Jay Senter's Web newspaper Prairie Village Post took me to task for "hating on" (his words, not mine) the suburban coffee shop. In today's Prairie Village Post eulogy for the restaurant, Senter concedes that maybe I was on to something. I wish I had been wrong.

I called Senter today to ask if he had seen this coming: "I had no idea," Senter said. "My wife and I would take our little girl there to eat, maybe once a year. It was a good place to take a toddler. But I don't think many tears - sincere tears, anyway - will be shed over this news."

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The food at Waid's, never all that spectaular to begin with, had gone downhill over the last six or seven years. A co-worker and I paid homage to the last Waid's, in Watts Mill, by eating lunch there today. The "famous" cheese soup was the consistency of wallpaper paste and about as flavorful. And the "long time favorite," a pork tenderloin sandwich, was so dry and tasteless that it could have been an actual relic from the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

But the freshly baked fruit pies in the bakery case near the cash register looked great, and the employees couldn't be nicer. I'm glad that, in this rapidly changing society, there's one Waid's left. But the average age of the customers in the dining room at lunch was about 60. Unless this dwindling restaurant chain manages to make itself relevant to younger diners, I can see that the familiar restaurant name will lose whatever tarnished luster it may have remaining.

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