By Erin Melwing
Every morning at 6 a.m., several men migrate to the same table at Chat ‘n’ Nibble restaurant in Eminence to settle all the world’s problems, according to Frank Marlow, a retiree of Ford Motor Company and former owner of Five-Star in Eminence.
“We’ve got Bush right where we want him,” Jim Bennett, a retiree of Kentucky Utilities, said.
A mixture of retired, not-so-retired and working men make up the regular morning crowds at the Chat ‘n’ Nibble.
“You have three shifts. The 6 a.m. shift, the 7 a.m. shift and the 8 a.m. shift,” Tom Shroyer, retired insurance agent and former mayor of Eminence, said. “The last shift is out of here around 9 or 9:15 a.m.”
The 6 a.m. shift sometimes consists of Marlow, Bennett, Shroyer and Lawrence Bond. All are of Eminence, with the exception of Bond, who hails from Pleasureville.
“We’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just a habit I guess,” Marlow said. “All the outlaws are up here.”
All of the regulars usually sit at the same table near the middle of the restaurant.
“This is the only table that you’re allowed to lie,” Bennett said. “They set this table aside to lie.”
Each of them have different reasons for venturing to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble with such dedication. Bennett began coming when KU transferred him to Henry County in 1969. Bond, a Chat ‘n’ Nibble regular of five years and self-employed plumber, likes to eat breakfast before he starts his day of work. When Marlow came back to town 29 years ago, he remembers sitting with a bunch of old men, and now realizes that he’s one of the old men, he said.
“I come to see if the stories have changed,” Shroyer, a regular since 1973, said.
“I come to see if the lies have changed,” Bennett added.
Age does not seem to make a difference though. Topics include politics, current events, stories of times past and anybody they feel like harassing that day.
“We talk about Tom Ferguson who owns this place,” Bennett, with a smile on his face, said.
The owners of the Chat ‘n’ Nibble, Tom and Alice Ferguson, enjoy the company of their daily regulars. The personalities of the regulars add a lot of humor, fun and friendship to the restaurant atmosphere. Alice kindly refers to all of them as the liar’s club.
“We do a lot of cutting up, a lot of teasing,” Alice Ferguson said. “A lot of them would rather tease me than eat, I get right in there with them though.”
The men have found fellowship and friendship through their daily breakfast throughout the years. Shroyer and Bennett met at the Chat ‘n’ Nibble many moons ago and are now, by chance, brothers-in-law.
“If you don’t show up for two to three days, Frank will call you to see if you’re sick,” Bond said.
Not all of the regulars are part of the liar’s club though, Paul Brown, of Eminence, aims to arrive at the Chat ‘n’ Nibble about a quarter after 7 a.m. and to leave about a quarter until 8 a.m. Brown has worked in the Quick Lube department changing oil at Browning Automotive in Eminence for the last 43 years and he has been coming to the restaurant for almost that long as well, he said.
“Really, it’s the only restaurant that is open in the morning and I have to go to work at 8 a.m.,” Brown said. “I just drop in here every morning. I like the people that come in here and the waitresses.”
However, it does not matter where you sit, you talk with everybody, according to Alice Ferguson. Brown usually sits by himself, but is part of the larger conversation going on as well.
“I sit and listen,” Brown said. “I learn more that way than talking.”
The 7 a.m. shift frequents the same table that the 6 a.m. shift does every morning. In fact, the 6 a.m., 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. shifts all know each other’s business and most of them are friends.
“If you can sift through everything said here, about two percent of it might be true,” Tom Ferguson said. “That might be stretching it.”
Ricky Ryens, owner of Rick’s Auto Service in Eminence, has been coming to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble for the past 10 years. He usually arrives around 7 a.m.
“I like the atmosphere and the people, but most importantly the people,” Ryens said. “We have a lot in common.”
“I’m here every morning just socializing probably six days a week unless something happens,”Doug Payton, former owner of Doug’s Hardware in New Castle, said.
Doug Payton of Eminence began coming to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble in the early 1970s when he used to work across the street. Payton, now retired, usually arrives at the Chat ‘n’ Nibble around 7:30 a.m. Thanks to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble, he still knows what Ryens and Bond are doing and stuff like that, he said.
“Actually most of us that come have been coming up here so long that we don’t remember why we come,” Payton said.
Edward Mitchell, a retired farmer and civil services retiree, continues to farm everyday, yet comes to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble to start his day off right. Mitchell, of Eminence, mostly just likes the atmosphere, it’s a country restaurant, he said.
“It’s a home away from home,” Payton said. “We all come here just for the fun, where else can you go to harass each other like this?”
Around 8 a.m., another shift wanders in. Brady King, an employee of Carrier Vibrating Equipment in Louisville, also comes to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble every morning. Bob Moore, a retired electrician of 37 years at Hussey Copper and former plumber for 20 years before that, comes once or twice everyday.
“I worked 57 years and I’ve kind of slacked off now,” Moore, of Eminence, said. “My cook at home don’t work everyday.”
Tony Harlow, of Tony’s 24-Hour Towing in Eminence, usually comes to the Chat ‘n’ Nibble three to four times a week around 8 a.m. as well. He knows King from their high school days at Eminence High School when they played sports together.
“This is one reason why I wanted to come back here, you don’t find this everywhere,” King said. “This is family.”
Harlow and King are considerably younger than many of the other regulars at the Chat ‘n’ Nibble. Harlow and King are young bucks and Moore and Mitchell are old bucks, according to Mitchell. Earlier this week, Moore and Mitchell reminisced about the town that Eminence once was while Harlow and King learned something new. Moore and Mitchell spoke of bowling alleys, firehouses, dance halls, old fairgrounds and more.
“We get a history lesson from these guys usually,” Harlow said. “We don’t know anything, that’s how it goes.”
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