SIDNEY — One of Sidney’s favorite eateries celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.
Clancy’s, 1250 Wapakoneta Ave., will mark the milestone from Oct. 24 through Oct. 30 with specials and give-aways:
• Monday, from 4 to 6 p.m., cheeseburgers will sell for just 79 cents each.
• Tuesday, from 7 to 9 a.m., a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich will sell for $1.79.
• Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., customers can get chili for 99 cents with any sandwich purchase.
• Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., toppers will cost $1.99 each.
Each of those days, some lucky diners will win a Clancy’s jacket, $20 gift certificates, sets of four commemorative glasses, or one of five T-shirts. Customers can enter their names for a drawing for three grand prizes, which will be awarded, Oct. 31. A name of someone 16 or older will be drawn to win a $250 Visa gift card. Customers who are 10-15 will be eligible to win a Kindle Fire. Those under 10 could win a bicycle.
Manager Gary Strasser, of Anna, said the Sidney Clancy’s was the second of what was once a chain of 31 restaurants in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. It is the only one remaining now.
The chain started in Noblesville, Indiana, when Carl Fogelsong chose a Keystone cop as a logo and opened the first Clancy’s fast food restaurant in 1965. He quickly added more stores in small towns. As chains like McDonald’s and Burger King were interested then only in larger cities, Clancy’s was welcomed in Bellefontaine, Middlesboro, Kentucky, Plainfield, Indiana, Urbana, Kenton, Marion, Shelby, Tipp City, Mansfield, Galion, Bellevue, Fremont, Norwalk, Orville, Bucyrus, Corbin, Kentucky and Tazewill, Tennessee.
“Gale Fogelsong brought it to Sidney,” Strasser said recently. “It was the first fast food restaurant in Shelby County.” It opened in October 1966 in the same location it enjoys today.
Strasser joined the firm as manager 20 years ago. By then, he was well-versed in fast food operations. Strasser’s first job was at Borden Burger in Bellefontaine. He was still in high school when the eatery made him an assistant manager. He then spent more than 14 years at Wendy’s and five at McDonald’s.
But it’s been his Clancy’s connection that has allowed him to have fun with the menu and to participate in community events. Clancy’s founder had developed a culture of community involvement from the beginning.
“Jerry Graham, who took a senior accounting job in the Clancy’s corporate office in 1976, remembers Fogelsong as a boss who did everything by the books. ‘He wanted to do it right and wanted to do it ethically.’ He said Fogelsong believed that, ‘If a business made money in a community, it should give back to the community,’” the Clancy’s website says.
Strasser has taken that to heart. The restaurant annually sponsors the Little Mr. and Miss contests at the Shelby County Fair. For the last several years, Clancy’s has provided grand prize and category prize money for the Sidney Daily News Harvest Holiday Cookbook Cook-off competition. The restaurant recently became a site for Nutritions Services of Shelby County/Fair Haven’s free breakfast for seniors. And Clancy’s coupons for free and reduced-price food have been readily donated to nonprofits throughout the county to help with fundraisers and special events.
In the restaurant, Strasser introduced bingo games and international cuisine.
“The (Amos Memorial Public) Library would do an international program in August. They asked me to do more than hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. They asked me to do German food. So I did and someone said, ‘Why don’t you put that in Clancy’s?’” Strasser said.
The tradition was born. Initially, he offered the foreign and ethnic specials monthly, but it quickly expanded to twice a month. Strasser selects the countries and the recipes. He’s been doing it for about 10 years.
“Sometimes it’s based on holidays — even international holidays, like England’s Guy Fawkes Day. It’s always German in October for Oktoberfests and I always try to do a Cinco de Mayo,” he said. The world cuisine specials are offered on Wednesdays. That’s the day that bingo games are played in the restaurant, too.
Those were the brainchild of a customer.
Jim Benkert, of Sidney, had been visiting the restaurant since 1981. A newly-hired custodian at nearby Northwood Elementary School, Benkert had arrived at the school for his first day on the job and had been given the wrong keys. He couldn’t get in. Someone suggested he go to the “little restaurant. They’ll let you use the phone,” Benkert said.
“They did and I’ve been coming ever since,” he said. “One day, I said to Gary, ‘Have you ever thought about bingo?’” And the games began.
Now retired, Benkert has breakfast every day at the eatery. He’s not the only one. Clancy’s has been voted to have the best breakfast in Shelby County in Sidney Daily News readers’ polls for the last seven years in a row. The food is good and not pricey, according to Benkert, but it’s the friends he’s made at Clancy’s that keep bringing him back.
“I’ve met a lot of people in here. That’s how I’ve made a lot of friends,” he said.
Strasser has a knack for making friendships happen.
Susie Leasure, of Sidney, joins Benkert and others for breakfast. She’s been going to Clancy’s for about three years. In the beginning, she sat alone in a booth.
“Gary moved my coffee cup over here,” she said of the table full of regulars where she now sits. She’s become one of the gang. Her daughter, Nancy Scott, of Troy, helps Leasure get there each day.
“The people take care of you. If you don’t come in, sometimes they call and check on you to see if you’re all right,” Leasure said.
Carolyn Warner and her husband, Sam, used to be there every day. Sam is no longer able to go out for breakfast, but Carolyn joins the group four to six days a week. The Warners have been faithful customers for some nine years.
“Friends, fellowship, the food is wonderful,” Warner said about why she returns. “Breakfast is wonderful. I’ve made friends here,” she added.
One of the things she likes is that the menu doesn’t change and the quality is dependable.
“That’s what’s good about it,” she said.
Dan Lyons agrees. He almost always orders the same breakfast each time he visits: eggs, ham, potatoes and toast. Lyons drives from Covington three or four days a week to join the table of breakfast buddies. A friend from work, he said, introduced him to Clancy’s.
“I started to come up here and I just kept coming,” he said.
Strasser likes socializing with customers. He looks forward to “getting to come in, make sure they’re happy,” he said. He enjoys even unusually busy times.
“When the power was out all over Shelby County, we were one of six restaurants that had power. It was one of the busiest times. It was stressful, but it was fun,” he said. His crew has grown from 12 when he arrived 20 years ago to 31 today.
The oldest among them is Patricia Stockton, of Sidney, who has been at Clancy’s since 1997.
“They call me a cook, but I prepare the stuff,” she said, “the chili, the sloppy joes, the vegetables. I make the meat loaves.”
She said the crew is a tight-knit bunch.
“If one feels bad, we all feel bad. If one feels good, we all feel good, just like a family,” she said. Younger and less experienced crew members look up to Stockton, “like I’m a mother- or grandmother-type person,” she laughed. “They seem to think what I say goes. I don’t know how that got started. They want advice. I try to give good advice.”
The crew serves popular items for dinner as well as their famous breakfasts.
“They love meatloaf on Thursday, fish on Friday and chicken on Saturday and Sunday,” Strasser said of his diners.
According to the company history published on the restaurant’s website, Fogelsong “wanted a restaurant that offered top quality food at a reasonable price. This meant 100 percent pure beef hamburgers, Grade A fancy potatoes for French fries, top quality name brands for condiments, buns, quality aged cheddar cheese, and on and on. Reduced menu didn’t mean reduced quality. To sum it up, Carl Fogelsong wanted to give the public a place to eat that they could count on. He was especially concerned about giving quality, courtesy, and cleanliness, speed and a warm informality — his restaurant would offer all of these.”
The Sidney Clancy’s has been doing that since 1966 and, thanks to Strasser and his crew, it’s ready to keep on doing it for at least another 50 years.
“I think we’ve got a good future yet,” Strasser said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.