After 104 years in business, Young’s Restaurant in Durham will not be reopening after their initial closing in March and the space will be up for lease.
Owner Kenny Young, who will be 63 in June and has been a part of the family that has owned the business for the last 52 years, said he had to ask himself as a business owner if he had the energy to make all the necessary changes to keep Young’s going in the midst of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Out of his options, permanently closing Young’s and becoming a landlord was the best scenario in front of him. Young said it has been an emotional time with a lot of sleepless nights, but that emotion comes from looking back at his years of positive experiences coming to an end.
“I love people,” Young said, “the [restaurant] business is always about people.” According to Young, missing the people he’s been in contact with his whole life, the connections, and the community will be the hardest part. “Some of the finest people I’ve met are from Durham and UNH,” Young said.
Over the years, Young’s has fed University of New Hampshire (UNH) sports teams and taken care of them. During break when the men’s hockey team was still playing, Young said, they would feed the team two to three times a week.
Young has been working at the restaurant since he was 11 years old. One of his memories he said stuck out to him was working the cash register while former UNH men’s hockey coach Dick Umile was still a student. Young recalled the 13 years working alongside his father and said, “I’m lucky.”
For the restaurant’s next chapter, Young said he hopes whoever takes over brings a “young energy,” and caters to both the Durham and University of New Hampshire communities. He said he hopes the space will continue to embrace the combination of those communities, whether it be local adults and students or UNH families.
Young’s helped the community and the people helped Young’s as well, and that is how he hopes he and his family and their restaurant will be remembered – for their impact in a positive way.
As for himself, Young remains focused on “Ken’s Backyard Greenhouse,” his own personal garden and greenhouse, and has been collecting more recipes while thinking about marketing the idea. Lately he has been using the greenhouse to grow fresh produce and sent over $1000 worth of it to the Crossroads Homeless Shelter in Portsmouth.
Young said he still wants to offer himself as a worker. He said he’s not ready to slow down yet, as he’s a “young 63,” and looks forward to continuing his passion being connected with nature by hiking and growing.
On behalf of himself and his family, Young said, “we thank the Durham community for supporting us many decades.”
At the news of Young’s Restaurant’s final chapter, individuals from the local communities have shared their fondest Young’s memories over the years.
Durham Town Manager Todd Selig said in an email “Our community is incredibly appreciative of the truly wonderful landmark restaurant the Young family and their dedicated staff have provided for generations of Durham residents, UNH students and staff, and visitors alike for many decades.”
Durham resident and manager of Town and Campus Richard Many said he began working in Durham stores in 1976. He said for 11 years he would always stop at Young’s for his coffee. Starting three years ago, Many began joining the group of veterans who met every Tuesday morning for breakfast at Young’s. He said he recalls one Monday near Veteran’s Day when Young bought the whole table breakfast.
Deborah Savage-Rerick Curran moved to Durham originally in 1967, and recently moved back six years ago with her husband. She said it was a tradition for her family to go to Young’s on Sunday after church, and that it’s been a special place in their lives for over 50 years. She said her dad worked at UNH and would go to breakfast to catch up with the people from town. “One morning he didn’t go and someone there actually called our house wondering if he was okay because he wasn’t there for his breakfast,” she said.
Kristin Ann said she worked at Young’s while putting herself through nursing school. Ann said Young made it possible for her to work and go to school. “I met the most wonderful people while working there, famous people, parents dropping their kids off for college, local people, all with a smile and a story to share,” Ann said.
As Young’s mother Anette once told him, “nothing is forever.” The hub that was Young’s Restaurant where “student, ‘townie’, and stranger come together daily to eat and socialize” will be gone, but never forgotten.
The way Young sees it, he said, is “when one door shuts, another opens.”