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VIDEO EXTRA: Community fills Buck’s A&W’s last days
Residents of South Kitsap and beyond came to Buck’s A&W in droves this week after the owners announced they will have to close their doors Sunday due to mounting court fees stemming from a lawsuit filed by former employees.
Customers bought T-shirts and mugs, swapped stories and gazed one last time at the hats, trophies, pictures and countless other pieces of local sports memories that cover nearly every inch of the restaurant’s walls and ceilings.
And some just came back to eat. Like Ray Baker, who drove down from Kingston to have a burger, onion rings and a big, frosty mug of root beer Wednesday.
“I heard that it was closing, so I figured I’d come down here and eat one last time,” said Baker, who graduated from South Kitsap High School in 1969 and was a classmate of Elton Goodwin, who went on to coach the school’s baseball team to three state championships.
At that time, Buck’s was down the street near the Hi-Joy Bowl and was “the spot to go” for teenagers, Baker said.
And proving the restaurant is just as big a part of high school life in Port Orchard as it was back then, before practice the SKHS swim and dive team headed over en masse to present the Gehrings with a banner they had all signed which thanked them for “49 amazing years.”
“We thought this would be a good way for the kids to thank them for their support — their never-ending support — all season long, every season,” said Head coach Tammy Lester-Dame, explaining that the Gehrings have supplied her team and most others with an endless supply of their “teen burgers” over the years.
Once inside, the team presented the banner to Glennys Gehring, who opened the restaurant with her late husband, Robert “Buck,” in 1959. The current owners, her son Rick and his wife Karin, took over the business in 1997.
Gehring, who said she is officially retired, was back delivering food and busing tables Wednesday to help out during the chaotic last days.
“It’s been sad. Very sad,” she said, adding that it has been heartwarming to see the community turn out to support them. “And it’s been hard to reminisce about old stories, but that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Gehring happily accepted the banner from the team on behalf of her son, whom she said had dashed out to get more supplies to feed the crowds.
An account has been set up at Kitsap Bank, called the Gehrings' Fund, to benefit the family and help pay their legal fees.