Pam’s Diner owner celebrates 10-year milestone

Published 5:28 pm Sunday, April 30, 2017

For the past decade, the blue and tan building with Mickey Mouse prominently placed on the window to greet visitors has been a familiar sight for Washingtonians driving along John Small Avenue.

A sign in front reads: “If you have a dirty tongue, leave it outside.” Retirees, hard-working folks and families have enjoyed a bite to eat here, whether it’s a tasty cheese biscuit or a helping of hamburger steak.

Exactly 10 years ago today, Debra Edwards took over at the helm of Pam’s Diner, named after the previous stakeholder’s daughter. Edwards officially opened the doors May 16, 2007.

PROUD OWNER: Pam’s Diner owner Debra Edwards took over the restaurant 10 years ago today. She does a little bit of everything — cooking, cleaning and waiting. (Caroline Hudson/Daily News)

“It’s an accomplishment, a real big accomplishment,” Edwards said. “Used to, when I came here, there was nothing but men in here, but now we’re family oriented.”

She traces her cooking roots back to her grandmother, with whom she’d often make and take items to sell at the local curb market. Edwards has lived in this area all of her life.

“I guess it’s always been in my blood,” she said. “I started out with my grandma because my grandmamma used to do cooking, so I guess I learned about it from her.”

ALL HANDS ON DECK: Teamwork abounds at Pam’s Diner. On Friday, Edwards’ sister Kathy Simpkins and Sam Farnham handled things out front, while Moses Jones and Chris Elks held down the fort behind the counter. (Caroline Hudson/Daily News)

Two twists of fate pushed her toward Pam’s Diner: she and her ex-husband owned a restaurant on the south side of the river, but their relationship wasn’t working out; she also lost her longtime job at Stanadyne Corp. The harsh winds of change moved her toward her next calling.

Edwards said she’s met many people, and seen many come and go during the 10 years. She honors her deceased former patrons with a memory wall, their photos overlooking the dining area.

“A lot of them are family because I’ve been here and gotten to know all of them,” Edwards said of her customers. “And try to treat everybody right and do home cooking.”

Her sister Kathy Simpkins also pitches in to help at the diner.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but it has been a fulfilling one. Edwards hopes to keep Pam’s Diner alive and well for as long as she can.

“I’m here to stay as long as I’m able to. I’m 62 now. … I’m hanging in there,” Edwards said. “I appreciate all my customers. You know, I do the best I can to make them happy.”

WHOLESOME: Edwards said she is proud to have transitioned Pam’s Diner to a more family friendly atmosphere. (Caroline Hudson/Daily News)