Monday was the last day for pancake breakfasts, mushroom burgers and scoops of Farr Better Ice Cream at The Oaks.
Owners Keith and Belinda Rounkles, who purchased the venerable restaurant up Ogden Canyon nearly four decades ago, have decided to close and sell the property.
A real estate sign went up in December, so customers knew change was coming. But they weren’t expecting it to shut down so soon.
“Not sold yet,” the Rounkleses wrote on their Facebook page last week when they announced the last day of business, “but taking some time off.”
Customers and former employees congratulated the owners on their well-deserved retirement but were saddened by the news.
“The Oaks is part of Ogden DNA,” one longtime patron wrote on Facebook. “I truly hope someone that loves this place as much as we all do comes in and keeps the magic going.”
“So many memories,” wrote another. “Will miss sitting down by the river and eating mushroom burger and onion rings with a shake.”
“It’s been an emotional weekend,” said the couple’s son, Trent Rounkles. “But it’s been cool to see all the people come back. I can’t tell you how many messages we’ve received.”
Customers, he said, were the ones who made The Oaks a special place. “We found out long ago that the Rounkles don’t own The Oaks, the community does.”
Originally built in 1907 about a mile west of its current location, The Oaks was one of several small resort businesses — along with the Hermitage and Idlewild — that opened after transit lines were extended into Ogden Canyon. At that time, the round-trip fare was 25 cents, according to the Weber County Heritage Foundation.
The businesses attracted residents, tourists — even President Teddy Roosevelt — all of whom were looking to fish, enjoy a good meal and spend the night in the picturesque Utah mountains.
In 1933, after numerous floods, The Oaks moved up the canyon to higher ground and its current location at 750 Ogden Canyon. Through the years, it operated as a grocery store, becoming a secret source of moonshine during Prohibition, and a seasonal restaurant where guests could walk up and order milkshakes and hamburgers during the warm summer months.
The Rounkleses bought the business in 1981, turning it into a year-round eatery. They expanded the indoor seating and added the shady patio overlooking the Ogden River. The restaurant featured many historic black-and-white photos of the canyon and guests could read about its history under the headline “Welcome to the Oaks … Elevation 4,780 ft.”
Since then, the restaurant has become a favorite place for first dates, wedding proposals, birthdays and weekend meals with family and friends. Its shady tables in the trees above the Ogden River made for an alluring outdoor dining experience.
“My grandma would take me there to have breakfast,” remembered one customer. “We would sit outside by the river. It was so great and one of my favorite things my grandma and I did together.”
Countless Ogden-area teens also worked their first jobs as dishwashers or servers at The Oaks.
“It was my first job as a teenager, and I worked there off and on for the better part of 15 years,” wrote a former employee. “So many friendships made. I love all the regulars who became like family.”