Nobody is exactly thrilled with The Sandwich Shop’s owner right now. They love Judy Johnson, but they’re not happy with her choice to sell the restaurant.
“I’ve worked a lot of jobs, and Judy and (her daughter) Julie have been the best bosses I’ve ever had,” said waitress Shelly Howell, 56, whose daughter, Sara, also works at the restaurant.
The Collinsville restaurant has been at 216 W. Main since 1974, when Judy and her then-husband bought the place and changed it from a shoe store to a restaurant. Now, after more than 40 years serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to her regulars six days a week, she’s ready to retire. Sort of.
“We’ve all decided it’s been enough,” she said, speaking for herself and her family members who work there. The restaurant, including the name, business and catering service, has been listed with the Barber Murphy Group for about a year for $279,000.
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Judy says she would hand over the keys and walk out, only to walk right back in to share the meatloaf recipe and how to make gravy — if the new owners were so inclined.
“If they say, ‘Walk out lady,’ then I’m gone,” she laughed.
She’s looking forward to traveling and gardening. But, when The Sandwich Shop does sell, there’s plenty she’ll miss.
“You couldn’t get better clientele. My customers are just the greatest,” she said, laughing about the regulars who arrive every morning before she does. As she fires up the kitchen and readies for opening at 7 a.m., those regulars are making the coffee and serving one another at 6:30 a.m.
“It keeps the payroll down,” jokes Tim Johnson, Judy’s son. He runs Hurricanes Bar and Grill just down the street.
“It’s like that,” Shelly said, as a departing customer handed her a $5 tip on a sandwich plate order and wished her a Merry Christmas. “A lot of it is just her way with all the customers, with all of us. We’re treated like family.”
The family feel extends from the front of the house to the kitchen. Gravy is made a little different, she says, with bacon fried “really crisp.” Judy doesn’t know how much they make daily, but they make more in the winter to meet demand.
You’ll find 16 sandwiches and about a dozen kinds of burgers on the menu, from a Turkey Reuben ($6) to grilled ham and cheese with chips for $5. Add onion rings for $2.25 or fries for $1.75.
There are plate specials daily, including chicken fried steak with potatoes, vegetables and dinner for $7 on Tuesday.
The $3 bowl of chili is a favorite of Judy’s “this time of year especially,” and is homemade.
“Most of it’s made from scratch,” she said.
Diedre Madsen and her mother, Diane Bohn, both of Collinsville, were headed out recently with tubs of chili.
“It tastes like it’s homemade,” Diane said. “It is homemade.”
Without Judy and The Sandwich Shop, she says, “We’ll starve.”
There are no buyers on the horizon, but Judy says anyone could build a life running the restaurant.
“It’s doing a good business. All the customers are upset, (they) don’t want anything to change.” she said.
As much as Judy enjoys the customers, there is one group of men she’ll happily never serve again.
The heavy-metal band Twisted Sister came through town years ago and stopped in to eat, she said.
“They weren’t nice. I wouldn’t want them for customers.”
The Sandwich Shop
Where: 216 W. Main, Collinsville
Hours: Breakfast 7 to 11 a.m.; lunch/dinner 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Information: 618-344-8311, as well as an informal Facebook page
Prices: For example, two biscuits and gravy with a meat is $5.50; choice of ham, bacon or sausage with two eggs, potatoes and toast or biscuit is $6.75. The Collinsville burger, topped with a creamy horseradish-mustard sauce, is $4.50, the Patti-Melt is $6. Daily specials are $7; Wednesday’s spaghetti with salad and garlic bread is $6.25.