By LOU WILIN
NORTH BALTIMORE — Whistle Stop Inn restaurant, which drew out-of-towners to North Baltimore with its prime rib, steaks and burgers, closed this week.
Residents fear it will not reopen, leaving the town starved for the traffic and money it has lured for years.
Attempts to reach the owners Friday were unsuccessful. It reportedly employed more than 20 people.
“It’s sad and it’s going to hurt our community,” said Laurie Newcomer, co-owner and manager of Sisters Junction, an antiques and collectibles store just down the block from the restaurant. “It is dead here. I just sent one of my employees home. … The town is dead. … I can tell already the difference in the business uptown.”
The empty parking spaces Friday afternoon on Main Street were normally filled by restaurant patrons, said Deb Zimmerman, assistant children’s coordinator for North Baltimore Public Library.
At lunchtime, an out-of-town couple on their way to Perrysburg came to Newcomer’s store to ask what happened to Whistle Stop.
“They could not believe the restaurant was closed,” she said. “People are noticing it.”
“I would say about 30 to 50 people a day are going to that door and turning around,” said Jason Gerdeman, who tended bar at Whistle Stop and who has a shop nearby.
Whistle Stop was a meeting point for those traveling between Findlay and Bowling Green and between Toledo and Lima, Gerdeman said.
“It was a nice out-of-the-way place where you could get really good food at a reasonable price,” he said.
The downtown benefited “because everybody was from out of town that really ate in there,” Gerdeman said. “I would say 75 percent (of the customers) were out-of-towners. And it helped all of these businesses here.”
“All of our shops, we’ve noticed this whole week that it’s been a ghost town,” he said. “It’s a huge letdown.”
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