J.D.'s Restaurant, 1420 Breckenridge St., is one of those places where everybody knows your name.

"We've become something of an institution," owner Steve Ash said recently. "We're on our third generation of customers, and this is an ultra-competitive business."

He said, "We develop relationships with our customers. Some sit in the same seats every time to get the same servers. A lot of our customers have met other customers here and have become friends."

The 65-seat diner began life in 1983 as Price's Restaurant -- built by Larry and Esther Price.

They ran it until 1987 and then sold it to J.D. and Martha Greer.

And then, Ash bought it 10 years later.

"I spent several years in management with Red Lobster," he said. "I opened the one here and then transferred around to several other cities."

Ash came back to Owensboro to work in food and beverage at the RiverPark Center, including a stint as manager of the old Woodward's Cafe in the bluegrass museum.

But, he said, "My wife was working in Tell City and she didn't want to keep commuting. So, we started looking for a business opportunity. I met with Martha and J.D. (Greer) and was able to buy this place."

Roast beef is the most popular item on the menu, Ash said.

Well, that and coconut pie.

"Plate lunches are a big hit," he said. "We keep our prices as low as we can because a lot of our customers are on a fixed income."

When the restaurant opens at 5 a.m., "there are always people waiting," Ash said.

He closes at 1:45 p.m. on weekdays and at noon on Saturday.

The restaurant isn't open on Sunday.

J.D.'s has been around so long that many people who have moved away like to drop by when they're back in town, Ash said.

"A lot of people tell us they come in every time they're in town to see the doctor or whatever," he said.

The food industry typically has a lot of turnover.

But Ash said, "We've had very little turnover. Most of our staff has been here eight to 10 years. That's unusual for restaurants. We're blessed to have such a dedicated staff and customers."

Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, but he said, "We serve breakfast all day long."

Sewer problems on Breckenridge Street caused the street in front of the restaurant to be closed for a time last fall and reduced to one lane last summer.

"We're still down about 25% from that," Ash said. "You could get in off 15th Street, but a lot of our older customers saw the barrels and didn't come in. We're still trying to get that business back."

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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