At the close of business on the last day of 2011, a familiar face will pass from the Peabody business district as Sharon Oursler turns over the reins of her downtown restaurant to former employee, Tim Peterson.
Oursler spent 19 years as owner of Sharon’s Korner Kitchen, which has been featured several times in Kansas! magazine and earned a spot in Marci Penner’s popular travel books, “Kansas Guide Book for Explorers.”
The restaurant hosted many club meetings, family reunions, holiday parties, and mini-class reunions. It also was a convenient gathering spot for visitors, hunters, local business people, coffee drinkers, and friends to visit over lunch.
“I’m certainly going to miss it,” Oursler said. “I’ve been thinking for some time that retirement looked pretty good, but I just wasn’t ready.
“However, I want to travel more and spend more time with my mom and do more for her and for my mother-in-law.”
Tim Peterson came to Peabody after Oursler purchased the restaurant.
“We had worked together for a number of years in Newton,” Oursler said. “I asked him if he’d like to move his family to Peabody and work for me full-time and he said yes. He worked here for 11 years and then about three years ago, accepted a position with Marion County dispatch working the night shift.”
However, Oursler long ago promised to contact Peterson first if she ever decided to leave the restaurant business. Once she made the call, it did not take Peterson long to make up his mind.
“After I had been in the restaurant business two or three years, I knew I eventually wanted to own my own place,” he said. “I had this idea that I would reach that goal by the time I was 25. However, life happened in there somewhere, and I got off the track. So now, I’m actually taking the plunge at 45 instead of 25.
“But I’m excited to get into it and get started.”
Peterson will open for business January 2 and for the time being he will keep the same hours Oursler had — 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
“I will be changing the name to Pop’s Diner,” he said. “My grandchildren all call me Pop, so when I asked them what we should name it, 11-year old Atlanta (Lopez) thought Pop’s Diner was a good fit. I think so too.”
Peterson said the menu will stay about the same as it has been, at least at first.
“I plan to do the same basic short-order cooking along with dinners and daily specials,” he said.
“I do want people to let me know though, if they would like for me to try something new,” he said. “I’m game to at least make the attempt. And I have a few ideas of my own.
“Mostly I am looking forward to serving the customers I remember as well as meeting new people and being able to offer good food and service to everyone,” he added.
Oursler echoed Peterson’s feelings about the customers who have become loyal friends and patrons during her years at the restaurant.
“I really will miss an awful lot of the customers we have been lucky to call friends. I’ve had some very, very special people come in here, and I will miss them,” she said. “I have watched time march on and I’ve seen lots of changes. Some of the people I enjoyed the most have died or moved and it is always hard to realize they won’t be coming through the front door again.
“Leaving the business is a little like that, but I hope Tim will call me when some of the special ones come in,” she said with a smile. “At least I have left orders for him to call me.”
Oursler said that during the years she has owned Sharon’s Korner Kitchen, competing food businesses in Peabody have opened or acquired new owners or managers 22 times.
“I have to say that I appreciate the loyalty of my customers, because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to survive that kind of competition,” she said. “We bent over backward to take care of our customers and I am sure Tim will do the same.
“My hope for him is that the community will give him the support and loyalty they gave me.”
Come Jan. 1, however, the one 19-year habit Oursler will not miss is climbing out of bed at 4 a.m. to start her day.
“Nope, not me!” she exclaimed. “From now on I am sleeping in!”