RIPLEY - Meeder’s Restaurant has been a Ripley staple since 1960 when Andy Meeder opened his dairy bar, selling milk, ice cream and candy along with home cooked meals. Gone are the days of the candy counter where the kids congregated after school, but the home cooked meals go on, along with the famous pies that bring folks in from all over. Dale and Trudy Babcock, Andy’s grandson and his wife, bought the business in 1990 and it continues to be a family affair.
The décor is basic small town diner, but Trudy is mulling over a change in color, new windows, and perhaps even a juke box one day. “I’ve been thinking about bringing a juke box in for a long time now,” says Trudy. “I used to have one but there was a water leak and it’s gone now.” As for the windows, new shorter ones like the ones in the west dining room are being planned. “I had someone offer to repair the BB gun hole in the front window, but I wanted to leave it,” continued Trudy. “I guess it’ll have to go when the new windows come in.” Trudy reminisces about the clientele who frequent her restaurant. “The three big tables in the middle used to be full with the old timers. As people passed away the ones left would move over a table, and now we’re down to one. We have the six a.m. crowd, the eight o’clock guys, and a ten o’clock group.”
Known for their “world famous pies,” and written up in Discovery Magazine in April 2004, Meeder’s is not just another diner, but the focal point and social center of Ripley. If you want to read the notices of items for sale, go to Meeder’s entryway. Want to find out what’s happening in the county? Read the posters and flyers tacked on the wall or cash register counter, advertising everything from the County Fair to the Moving Wall. Donations to the two cemeteries in town and the Ripley Veterans’ Roll of Honor Monument can be made at Meeder’s. There’s not much you can’t find out by talking to the staff or patrons. It’s a bit like the television show, Cheers, where everybody knows your name, and if they don’t, they soon will. Friendliness personifies Meeder’s.
Among the many events the restaurant sponsors are Christmas lights in town every year and the annual Easter egg hunt. A Halloween party for the kids is being planned this year, to take place in Meeder’s banquet room. Meeder’s is the site of the Senior Citizens walk every Wednesday morning, as well as meetings of the Quincy and East Ripley Cemeteries, and RVRH Committee. Every May sees the Women’s Day Banquet, honoring local organizations and non-profits. The large banquet room, added on in 2000, is available to rent for special parties and get-togethers.
Running a restaurant is more than a full time job for Trudy. Employing about 20 full and part time people, you’ll still find Trudy there most hours. “These guys are my family,” she says. When asked what she had hoped or planned for as a kid coming out of high school, she says, “You’re going to think I’m nuts, but I wanted to work in a restaurant. It was better than grape farming,” which was her family’s business. Trudy and Dale met in 1966, when she was just 13 years old. “Our first date we went flying.” They just celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. “Can you believe it, we’ve been together 43 years!” Battling liver cancer for the last few months, Trudy has a very pragmatic view of life. “I won’t live to a ripe old age, but with the shots I get once a month at Roswell (Park Cancer Hospital), I expect to be around awhile yet. I have grandkids to see graduate and things to get done. I feel good, although I’m tired a lot, but I know the prayers of my family and customers have helped me a lot. I’m blessed to have them all in my life.” Trudy and Dale are still flying high with no wish to land anytime soon.
Pictured above is Trudy Babcock, who co-owns Meeder’s Restaurant in Ripley along with her husband, Dale. Meeder’s has become a favorite hang-out in the community.