SWEETWATER, Tenn. (WATE) — A brother and sister decided to bring a restaurant to Sweetwater 47 years ago, and now Dinner Bell is set to close in September. For owners Curtis Montooth and Diann Allison it’s been a journey since they opened.
“You know it was a hard beginning because we’d never been in this business before and we had to figure it out as we went,” Montooth said.
Soon they got the hang of it. Dinner Bell became a staple restaurant and general store in the community that was built on their family’s farm.
“We’ve met hundreds of thousands of people over the years and made a lot of friends from a lot of different states and all over the area,” Montooth said.
Now it’s a place that those near and far will miss. The siblings decided to retire leaving behind what brought many a good meal and great memories.
“I’ve been coming since they opened I guess, I went to school with these people, and then I’ve been coming for a long time,” a customer, Cathy Bonanno said.
“We’ve been coming here since 1975, when it first opened up and once a week at least, sometimes more than once a week,” another customer, Roy Fox said.
Workers have also enjoyed their time at Dinner Bell. Many of them have been there for five to 40 years. Barbara Stauch is from Germany and has been working at Dinner Bell for six years.
“I will miss the people, the interaction, and to know why I get up in the morning, you know to serve the people,” Stauch said.
“It is a working environment, but it’s a family environment,” Liz Raby, who has been working at the establishment for over 40 years said.
Customers have enjoyed the family environment that Dinner Bell has provided. So much so that it has become a second home for many.
“I eat here probably 95 percent of the time,” Larry Thomas, who lives three miles down the road from the restaurant said.
“I’ve been coming here for years since I was little. My mamaw worked here,” Teresa Lawson, another regular said.
“If you leave here hungry it’s your own fault,” Bill Patterson said.
It’s a place many are sad to say goodbye to.
“It’ll be hard to replace, I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’ll make it somehow I guess,” Thomas said.
It’s what makes it just a little more bittersweet for the brother and sister duo to say goodbye, but they’re thankful for it all. Especially their customers.
“We appreciate them and thank them, and we’ll miss them,” Allison said.
Dinner Bell’s last day open will be September 12. Montooth said they wanted to stay open for 50 years, but due to the pandemic, inflation and a staff shortage, they decide to close their doors sooner.