ERROR: Macro verticals//a is missing!
  • NOSTALGIA RESTORED

    Iconic Summit Inn diner in Oak Hills reopens

    • email print
  • »  RELATED CONTENT
  • OAK HILLS — For locals, the Summit Inn is a social hub. The roadside diner also beckons foreign travelers, many of whom are as keen as the locals to the Route 66 nostalgia, but just have never seen it. Until nine days ago, its red booths and rows of counter seating had been empty while a key portion of the iconic 62-year-old restaurant was being rebuilt.
    A suspected drunken driver in a reportedly stolen minivan plowed into the Summit Inn on March 27, causing what ultimately equated to roughly $200,000 in damages while virtually destroying the kitchen area.
    Jayson E. Johnson, 37, of Riverside, was sentenced July 22 to three years of supervised probation after he pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance and reckless highway driving, court records show.
    A plea deal dismissed charges of driving under the influence and buying or receiving stolen property.
    “We didn’t salvage anything to tell you the truth,” Summit Inn owner C.A. Stevens said during a recent tour of the since-revamped kitchen.
    The van smashed through the restaurant’s exterior wall and mowed down the rear wall also shared by the men’s restroom on the other side. Luckily, the crash occurred around 4:15 a.m., when no one was there. And fortunately for Stevens, insurance covered the total costs of reconstruction and lost wages.
    After the rebuild, Stevens expressed concern to General Manager Michelle Ranck about the possibility of customers simply not returning there after a four-month hiatus.
    “I was worried,” Stevens said. “I told Michelle, ‘I don’t think they’ll come back.’”
    But three days after Johnson was sentenced, the Summit Inn reopened its twin doors, and a pair of regulars, Karl and Sue, brought a flower bouquet for the occasion.
    “They’re the sweetest customers,” said server Tamara Shearer, 31.
    In fact, they ate there for three consecutive days last weekend, she said.
    Ranck immediately dialed the roughly 50 people who had called over the four-month down period to inquire about the restaurant’s status.
    “People called here on a daily basis,” she said. “Finally, the last month, I said why don’t we take these people’s phone numbers? And the moment (Stevens) unlocked that door and (the cooks) began cooking, I was on the phone.”
    A little more than a week in, business has “been really good,” Shearer said, “almost better than before.”
    On Thursday morning, a horde of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Citizens on Patrol dined there, along with some of the regulars.
    “It’s like family,” said Pam Sigler, secretary of the Oak Hills Property Owners Association.
    Sigler was enjoying breakfast with her husband, Gary Sigler, the association’s treasurer, and Terry Kostak, the group’s president.
    A family of five there from Sweden was on their way to Las Vegas. The matriarch confirmed that Swedes are well-versed about Route 66, saying they learn about it from watching television and film.
    “This represents their idea of America,” Kostak said.
    Stevens estimated that about 85 percent of his customers are foreign. He keeps a guestbook where patrons from places like Korea, France and Slovenia sign their names, write their home countries and provide brief positive reviews — sometimes just a smiley face. He jokingly closes his eyes and randomly points to somewhere in the book and says, “I’m going to go here.”
    The Summit Inn will host a car show Oct. 6 to officially usher in its new beginning. The restaurant is located at 5970 Mariposa Road in Oak Hills.
    SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.
    " data-width="650" data-numposts="20" data-colorscheme="light">