Nearly 10 years to the day after The Oaks Restaurant opened its doors on Main Street, it is closing them for good.
"Basically, it's just burnout, said Jack Etter Sr. who co-owns the fine dining restaurant with his son Jack Jr. and daughter-in-law Patty. "We're all totally burnt out on it."
The Oaks sold its first meal on Aug. 13, 1990. The last will be served Sunday, Aug. 27. Until then, the restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays for lunch and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. for dinner. Closing time on Friday and Saturday nights will be 9 p.m.
"I think a lot of people are going to miss us," Etter said. "But nothing stays the same. Everything is changing all the time. It's just one of those things."
One of the changes that affected The Oaks is what Etter terms "a very tight labor market.
"My son, Jack, is our chef, and he's had one week off in 10 years," he said. "We can't find qualified help. We find help, we train them, and they go somewhere else."
But there were other considerations.
"This town won't support us," Etter said. "This is not a fine-food town. Also, we would have had to put a lot more money into the place. After 10 years, there would have had to be a lot of repairs, and the parking lot would have had to be done over. With what was happening, we just didn't feel it was worth more investment."
Furthermore, Etter said, he found little encouragement in the Sawmill Crossing shopping and entertainment complex, which is now under construction, and set to open, at least partially, in late October or early November
"Ten years ago when I opened the place, I thought the Main Street redevelopment was going to happen. It hasn't. And I don't think Sawmill Crossing would have helped us."
And although a new competitor the Mogollon Grille at Heritage House just a few doors to the east is scheduled for its grand opening later this month Etter said "That had no effect on our decision, which was made months and months ago."
The Oaks' 15 employees were told Sunday of the closing.
"They expressed quite a bit of disappointment," Etter said. "A lot of them have been with us for a long time. But we felt they wouldn't have any problem finding re-employment at this time of year. That was part of the timing of the decision, too. We didn't want to wait until winter when things are really slow."
The Oaks has been on the real estate market "in a rather clandestine way" for some time, Etter said. "We didn't want to put a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard. If we had, we might have sold it long ago. But now we're just going to open it up to whoever wants the property."
Etter has a ready answer when asked if he's planning to open any other restaurants in Payson or elsewhere.
"This is my first venture into the restaurant business and my absolute last venture into the restaurant business ... My expertise is in other areas."
Jack Jr. said he, too, was through with the restaurant business.
"I've had my fill," he said. "I'm planning to take some time off to spend with my family."
The senior Etter had a speedy reply as to what he might have done differently.
"I would have not gotten into the restaurant business. Not in this town, that's for sure.
"But we're not being shot down. We've chosen to do this ourselves. The company is not broke, we don't owe anybody anything, everything is current, the property is paid for. So we're going out on top."