The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 21, 2013

White Turkey moving on without its beloved owner

CONNEAUT — Mother’s Day weekend saw the White Turkey Drive-In in Conneaut launch its 61st year in business, but nobody connected with the curbside restaurant felt like celebrating.

For the first time in decades, Gary Tuttle, who — along with wife Peg — won’t be behind the counter greeting customers. Tuttle died in October, one month after the popular eatery closed for the season. He was 72.

As a result, after a little more than a week into the 2013, Peg Tuttle is delivering the sad news to loyal, out-of-town customers.

“I’ve had to tell people who didn’t know,” she said. “That’s the hardest part — the engagement. You have to take deep breaths sometimes.”

One long-time customer from Cleveland, as he’s done in previous years, rolled in on his motorcycle, honked the horn and shouted out for his good friend Gary. “I had to send one of the kids out to tell him,” Peg said.

Gary Tuttle’s parents began the Route 20 restaurant in 1952. Twenty-nine years later, Gary and Peg took over the reins. Since Gary was already operating a flooring business, Peg assumed primary control of the eatery, she said.

“(Gary) supported me in that,” she said.

Since Peg had already been running the restaurant, the decision to keep the business going without Gary wasn’t an option. “(Closing) never even crossed my mind,” she said.

Tuttle said she is spending more time behind the counter “to reassure people” about the restaurant’s future.

To avoid ruining a visit, Tuttle said she waits until customers are ready to leave before speaking of Gary. Everyone has been kind and supportive, she said.

“We just miss our buddy,” she said. “I miss him terribly.”

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