Barb and Dan Neff were among the crowd that filled TJ’s Supper Club on Saturday, Aug. 31, on its last day of business under that name. Many came to see owner Gayla Curry on her last night as owner, before she sold the property, but the Neffs did not have to make special plans to be there - they have been going to TJ’s every Friday night on their “date night” for 25 years. They always sit at the same table, Barb said, and both named filet as their favorite dinner.
The couple also has celebrated many family birthdays there, including their children’s and grandchildren’s. Also, Mother’s Day is always a favorite memory, Barb said. “Mother’s Day was always a big event. We brought all the family and had 25 people.”
Barb takes credit for persuading Gayla to take her first job at TJ’s in 1985, when it was opened by Tom and Joan Stine. Barb explained Gayla had been working at the Just Hers clothing store in downtown Hannibal, “where I always shopped, and when TJ’s opened, I was dining room manager and said ‘I need a good waitress,’ inviting Gayla to join her.
After being closed for about five weeks, the restaurant will be opened as Game On, a combination sports bar and restaurant.
Barb and the other TJ’s “regulars” were glad they did not have to bid Gayla farewell on Friday, because she has promised to return to the new restaurant as part of the management team.
The new owners have promised to keep some menu items. This pleased several regular customers, including Phyllis McHargue, who chose the pecan salmon as a favorite, adding “they make a really great hamburger.”
Also hoping to find their favorite menu items at the new restaurant were Larry and Jodie McKluskie and their daughter, Kelly. Jodie also named salmon as her top entree, while Larry said he enjoys “anything served” - except liver.
Kelly said, “it was such a great place to come, because you could hear the people.” The McKluskies have regularly met at TJ’s with their golfing friends.
Former kitchen manager, Stacey Strickland, a mail carrier who previously worked at TJ’s for 12 years, said onion rings are one item he hopes to see on the new menu, explaining “when I worked here, if we ran out, someone went to the store.”
Ribeye steak was also a customer favorite, Stacey said. He worked his way up from dishwasher to fry cook, then grill before becoming kitchen manager, and said he had created several soups, making his own recipes.
Page 2 of 3 - “If they want to keep the regular customers, they need to keep the regular menu,” Stacey added.
“Gayla also brings in the people,” Stacey said. “I consider her to be a best friend/mom/boss. Words can’t explain. You don’t find people like her. She gave me responsibility and trusted me to do my job. ... Working for her had definitely brightened my life.”
Jeanne and Ron Mack were among the people Gayla named as being very loyal customers. Both chose prime rib as their top dinner, and Jeanne added, “I like the ‘Cheers’ atmosphere” of knowing the others, but it also was a place “we could bring our grandchildren, and they could talk to everybody.”
The Macks went to TJ’s after football games, Jeanne said, and Ron said he enjoyed, “the fellowship with all my friends. ... People here have always been nice and friendly. It is really a nice family atmosphere.”
A foursome at another table were Brad and Becky Blickham, with Bob and Donna Heiser. Bob said they have always come there after mud volleyball. “Gayla has been a supporter of the Y Men’s Club,” which handles mud volleyball.
Bob named filet as his top menu entree, but Donna likes the desserts, especially the “Brownie Bomb” and chocolate cream pie.
Ribeye was the top choice of Brad, while Becky named onion rings. Brad said “it’s always been cordial, with a good crowd of nice people, good waitresses and lots of fun.”
“It’s really sad” to see TJ’s close, said Mindy Dunbar, a former employee. She enjoyed her time there because “everybody knows you.”
Pat Bambei, a current employee, said “Gayla is the best boss - she was wonderful. She is top-notch to work for.”
“I work behind the bar and all week have been answering the phone with questions about the sale and how Gayla is doing. They had a sad moment,” Pat said.
Summing up why she believed TJ’s had been so popular, Pat said “we always had the attitude, ‘You greet them and treat them well.’”
Several employees plan to apply for jobs at the new Game On, including waitress Vicki Rickard, who has been there about 26 years. “I worked with Tom and Joanie,” she explained, before Gayla bought the restaurant.
“What people will miss most is Gayla,” Vicki said. “Also all the waiters and staff. Some are not coming back, but I plan to come back.”
Page 3 of 3 - See photo gallery for more pictures.