Whether it’s a providing a sandwich to farmers and semi-drivers during harvest, a family getting together for a birthday or a couple seeking a truly home cooked meal, the Redmon Pit Stop has cemented itself as an important destination not only in Redmon but Edgar County as well.
The restaurant, owned and operated by Paris native Tonya Vitez, has been open for three years and shows no signs of the tough economic times many village and small town eateries have in this day and age.
Vitez was born and raised in Paris but moved from the community to Texas. She operated a successful cheesecake business there until her husband died. “I came home to be with my family,” she said.
Her mother, Ruthie Erwin, is the cook at the restaurant and this week has been busy baking pies and preparing the Thanksgiving buffet served Thursday at the restaurant.
A well-known face in the restaurant business in Paris, Erwin has served as a waitress for many years everywhere from Don and Katie’s to B & J’s Restaurant. She’s settled into the job of cook at her daughter’s business, baking nearly 20 pies this week for customers as well as preparing entire Thanksgiving meals for families who ordered them for pickup on the holiday. On Thursday, she was busy in the kitchen, preparing oyster dressing, dressing, turkey, ham, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls in addition to desserts for the feast.
“Everybody knows Ruthie,” said Bill Coombes of Paris, who with his wife, Vickie, was celebrating Thanksgiving at the Pit Stop. The couple came to the restaurant after enjoying a Facetime call with their son, Elgin, and his family, who are missionaries in Monrovia.
Coombes is a native of Redmon and has fond memories not only of the community but the building now housing the restaurant. “It was a post office,” he recalled. “Later the post office included a barbershop.”
Coombes’ attachment to Redmon wasn’t the only reason he and his wife chose the Pit Stop for their Thanksgiving. Coombes was a bartender at Don and Katie’s many years ago and Erwin was the daytime barmaid.
Vitez said when she purchased the building it was in good repair. “It had almost everything we needed including the tables and chairs,” she recalled. “We probably could’ve opened right away, but we wanted to make changes.”
The walls of the restaurant are filled with signs of special occasions hosted by Vitez and her staff including the Redmon Fire Department Christmas party as well as those who have spent Thanksgiving at the restaurant.
Karen and Bryan Hand were continuing a Thanksgiving tradition started by their husband and father, the late Chuck Hand, by enjoying the holiday at the restaurant.
“Chuck was the first one who called every year to tell us he and Karen would be here for Thanksgiving,” Vitez said. A former Hand student, Vitez said, “We just loved him.”
Vitez said Hand’s last visit to the restaurant came after a radiation treatment at Sarah Bush Lincoln Healthcare. Hand’s friend, Pete Templeton, brought him.
Templeton said Hand wanted to go to the restaurant but told him, “I don’t feel like eating.”
“We were there about 10 minutes and he ordered a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie,” Templeton said.
Vitez finished the story. “He ate a piece of pie and then said, ‘you know, I think I’m just going to have another piece,” she said, smiling.
Ron George enjoyed Thanksgiving with the Kelsheimer and Williams families Thursday and said he is a regular at the restaurant. “This is not nuked fast food, it’s good, home cooked food,” George observed. “Ruthie’s been cooking forever.”
The Kelsheimers and Williams opted for the Pit Stop on the holiday to give Joy Kelsheimer a break on the holiday. She has been carrying for her mother’s older brother.
“We just wanted to be able to go out and eat and not worry about anything,” she said. “We did call around and one place quoted us $25 per person. I called Tonya and told her to put us down for 12.”
Vitez said serving Thanksgiving at the restaurant wasn’t just about selling food. “It is our way to thank everyone,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for people coming in and supporting us.”
George noted it’s not unusual to visit the restaurant and find three or four farm semis parked along the street.
“The farmers and drivers are awfully good to us,” Vitez said. Some of the farmers run a tab for their workers and come in and pay. “We make a lot of cheeseburgers,” she laughed.
Vitez said her older brother, John Winschief, is also involved in the restaurant — even though he works fulltime in Danville. “He makes the best big cinnamon rolls,” she said. “We have people call and want to know if he’s made cinnamon rolls. They make a trip out here to get them.”
For the holiday feast Thursday, Winschief prepared homemade persimmon pudding with brandy sauce. “When he retires, he wants to become more involved here,” Vitez said.
During December, January and February, the restaurant does not offer a noon buffet but daily specials. “The farmers go to Florida or Arizona and it’s slow out here,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t special events at the Pit Stop. Friday from 5-8 p.m. is all you can eat pan fried chicken and fish, she said. “Mom fries in a pan,” she said. On Sundays, a buffet is offered from 11-2 p.m., she said. “We have a lot of people who come here after church for Sunday dinner.”
It’s just not Edgar County people who patronize the restaurant. Visitors from as far away as California, Arkansas and Michigan have signed their names to the poster boards on the walls of the Pit Stop. “Sometimes they have relatives in the area and they stop,” Vitez said. “Sometimes they are just driving and seek the sign on Route 133.”
The Pit Stop also offers a special social on the last Saturday of each month. In the summer, Vitez said an old-fashioned ice cream social is held. In the winter — including today — it’s a soup social. Erwin makes a variety of soups — sometimes by request — including chili.
“Everyone can socialize and enjoy each other,” Vitez said.
The Pit Stop has been a godsend for Erwin, Vitez said. “She rides out here with Cynthia Marietta and gets to cook for everyone. She’ll be 80 in April but this place sure keeps her going.”
Vitez and her crew ended their day Thursday by hosting the Bill Blair family’s Thanksgiving dinner. There were about 20 family members of all ages present.
Blair’s son, Steve Blair, said he graduated from high school with Vitez. “The food is great and there is great hospitality,” he said, noting his father once requested liver and onions, “and of course Ruthie made it for him.”
Bill Blair didn’t come empty handed to the dinner. “I have to bring cheesy peas for the grandkids,” he said.
Bill Blair celebrated his 80th birthday at the restaurant earlier this year. “They are good friends and the food is good,” he said. “The hospitality is unbelieveable.”