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Postcards From The Pandemic: Vintage Diner Regroups After Collision

Bob & Sheri's 49er Restaurant has been a fixture in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood for 39 years. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
A photograph shows Bob & Sheri's 49er Restaurant in Cleveland's Slavic Village.

Bob and Sheri’s 49er Restaurant in Slavic Village has been closed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks ago, it was just about to reopen, complete with plexiglass dividers between tables. Then a speeding car slammed into the building. The driver and a passenger are fine, but the crash destroyed the booths, front windows and a vintage Pac-Man machine.

Co-owner Sheri Brake remains committed to reopening, in part because she feels the restaurant serves as a home away from home for her neighbors.


Like Family

It's a little 50s diner truck stop. We've had it for 39 years. It's very small. We have three tables, five booths and probably 20-some stools to sit at.

We're more like family in the neighborhood. Everybody knows that, everybody watches the building. When we got hit that night, we knew within five minutes because of somebody down there called us.

I think they hit at like at 80 miles an hour.

I mean, it did a lot of damage. A lot.

A security camera image shows a speeding car hitting Bob & Sheri's 49er Restaurant in July. [49er Restaurant]

My counter's broken, my tables, my booths. They must have hit a ketchup bottle. My ceiling has ketchup all over it, it flew up that hard.

An old, beautiful Pac-Man machine that everyone wanted to buy — all that's left of it is the little name that says 'Pac-Man.'

We don't even have all the estimates yet but I would say there's probably $80,000 or $90,000 [in damages] once we're done.

All that remains of the 49er Restaurant's Pac Man machine is a control panel showing ghost characters. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Insurance may not pay for everything, so we're trying crowdfunding. I don't like to ask people for things, and it's a poor neighborhood. But a friend said, 'You can ask for anything, it doesn't mean you're going to get it.'

Sheri Brake has co-owned Bob & Sheri's 49er Restaurant in Slavic Village for 39 years. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

'Please Come Back'

Everybody wants us back. I keep getting little messages from people.

I actually have one person left me a message: ‘Get it fixed, ’cause I have memories of there and I want to bring my kids in there and have the same memories.’

And just stuff like that. 'Are you coming back? Please come back.'

Model cars lining the walls survived the crash. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

I’ve been told that so many times, they think we’re just not coming back. And I said, ‘We'll be back. We're coming back.’

All the grown-ups in there now have been kids that came in with their parents when they were young. And they love it there. They feel like they’re at home.

We’re that kind of restaurant. We're not the stuffy kind where you come in, sit down, have your coffee and leave. We’ll usually tease you or say something silly.

You know, people like that. People like to feel at home. They really do.

Justin Glanville is the deputy editor of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.