BLOOMINGDALE - Twenty years ago, Cindy Murray had a dream to operate a little restaurant, a dream fulfilled when she opened the Dove Restaurant at 903 state Route 152.
Now Joan Cresap's dream for the same thing has come true.
Joan and her husband, Jay, assumed ownership of the restaurant from Cindy and Kent Murray, officially reopening the business March 1.
UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP — The Dove Restaurant at 903 state Route 152, Bloomingdale, officially opened under new ownership March 1 as Joan and Jay Cresap of Steubenville, couple at right, are tackling a new venture. With them are Kent and Cindy Murray, who started the restaurant 20 years ago.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
The transition is one that comes with happiness, tears and an explanation that a desire for a change in life is behind the ownership switch.
"My husband and I were eating at the restaurant," Joan tells the story. "I looked around and told my husband that I would love to own a small restaurant like this one. A few weeks later, Jay stopped for breakfast and asked the owners if they were interested in selling. Cindy spoke to him about that," she said.
Joan had been in a life-evaluating mode of thought.
"I have been the finance manager at the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission for 18 years, and I truly valued my contribution to that organization," she said.
But a bout with cancer brought blurry I-want-to-do-this life goals into crisper focus.
"About five years ago, I went in to the hospital for a routine operation, and they discovered I had ovarian cancer, stage three. I have been clean since then, and that's when I discovered that, even though I loved my job with BHJ, I wanted to do something that would make me feel fulfilled and happy," Joan said.
"As a cancer survivor, I evaluated what I wanted to do with the remainder of my life. I hope to bring my background in finance into the business, but my true love is giving value to our customers and interacting with the public," she said.
The Cresaps are residents of Steubenville, both natives to the Steubenville-Wintersville area. Jay is a plumber/pipefitter with Local 495 and president of the Jefferson County Sportsmans Association.
They'd never met the Murrays before but once they connected, "we both realized that our lives were at a turning point," Joan said.
"The Murrays are ready to move into a new area of their lives, concentrating on their children and grandchildren and choosing a different direction in their lives," Joan said.
Ditto for the Cresaps and their new venture with the restaurant, one they said they could not have pursued with confidence had it not been for the Murrays' encouragement and support.
Cindy said she immediately knew when she met Joan that the ownership change was the right choice as Joan's passion to operate a small restaurant paralleled her own two decades earlier.
"I wanted her to have her dream," said Cindy, who ran the restaurant in its initial eight years until Kent came on board.
While the years were good ones, the time commitment to running a restaurant began to take its toll. Three years ago the restaurant began closing during the winter months. During 2011, it was only four days a week. A year ago, selling the business was a thought seriously considered, according to Cindy.
The Murrays are making the transition from life on a 200-acre farm in Knoxville to residency at the Tappan Lake area, and they're still in the restaurant business though on a much smaller scale, far less hours.
For about three and a half years, Cindy has operated the Country Cottage Cafe at 203 Ohio St., Brilliant. The couple's main focus, however, will be their rental properties in Toronto and Brilliant in addition to the Dove Inn motel behind the restaurant, which can accommodate as many as 15.
Having the Dove Restaurant was an emotional investment as well as a business one, Cindy agreed, one that fostered many fond memories and nurtured friendships from a customer base.
"I think about all my customers and thank them," she said tearfully.
Located off the Bloomingdale exit of U.S. Route 22, the Dove Restaurant is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but in order to serve surrounding workers, "we'll open the doors to 'early birds,'" Joan said.
The restaurant also will offer carry-out services.
"Our daily specials are some old favorites maybe tweaked a little and some new dishes with taste and comfort in mind," Joan said. "The early morning and weekend evening hours will be watched closely. Feedback from our customers will be the deciding force," she added.
In preparation for the restaurant's opening, the Cresaps worked to be ready for opening day. "As with any business changeover, a customary cleaning was the best place to start. We will rearrange and rethink a few areas with customer and employee comfort at the forefront. New ideas are running through our minds but a return of the regular customers would be a great and successful beginning," Joan said.
Getting things ready was a labor of love, they said, that involved "a huge effort of friendship" with assistance from Richard "Bear" Rogers, William "Chip" Ralston, Shane Neilly, Cody Cresap, Robert Clark, Joey Booth, Jim Palm, Lee Russell, Diane Clark, James Cooper, Amanda Mosti, Heather Clark, Amelia Booth, Glenn Snyder, Danny Byard, Connor Cooper, Caz Smogor and Brian Applegarth.
"We have been very fortunate to have kept most of the employees who have worked for and been loyal to the Dove in the past. Six employees will be returning, and a new chef will be on board," Joan said.
"We feel very blessed to have the support of our family and many friends in this venture," Joan said. "Words could never express what their support and hard work mean to us. They came every day with their sleeves rolled up and ready to jump in, never asking for anything in return," Joan added.
With the baton of restaurant ownership passed, one thing won't change, according to Joan.
"The legacy of good affordable 'comfort foods' shall remain our goal."
(Kiaski can be contacted a firstname.lastname@example.org.)