Johnson’s Cafe: Part of borough fabric

Many restaurants have come and gone over the years in Lycoming County.

As more popular and recognizable franchise restaurants continue to appear on the landscape, the old familiar eateries that sat along the main streets of communities are no longer necessarily the ones of choice for people looking for a good lunch or dinner.

Then again, there’s places such as Johnson’s Cafe, a longtime family restaurant in the heart of downtown Montoursville.

Gordie Snyder is the third generation of his family to own the place.

“I started managing it for my father in 1986,” he said. “I took it over in 1998.”

The business, which seats about 100 customers, serves up a menu that includes everything from steaks and seafood, to soups and sandwiches, chicken & waffles, and crab cakes.

Snyder said the restaurant’s popular salads are meals in themselves.

“You won’t go hungry,” he said.

It’s casual dining with a family feel.

And, it’s part of the fabric of Montoursville.

“People in Montoursville patronize the businesses here, which is nice,” he said as he sat next to a window looking out on the community’s busy downtown. “It’s that small town feel.”

It’s the sort of place, he said, where customers stop in for a bite to eat or a drink at the bar after a high school football game or other local event.

The restaurant serves both lunches and dinners.

Like most restaurants, it sees most of its business on the weekends.

Located at 334 Broad St., Johnson’s Cafe is easy to find.

“We are right smack in the middle of town,” Snyder said. “There’s lot of traffic.”

Although his family was in the restaurant business, starting with his grandfather, Snyder wasn’t so sure he’d actually be part of it when he was a young college student studying journalism at Penn State University.

When he graduated college, he began working for John Savoy & Sons right in Montoursville.

Now, nearly 30 years later, it’s safe to say he’s a full-time restaurateur.

The hours are long, but he has no regrets.

His advice to anyone looking to own and operate their own place?

“Learn it from the ground up,” he said. “Start out learning to do dishes, cooking, bartending, then decide if that’s what you want to do. At some point, you will be doing all these things.”

Asked to cite the most challenging aspect of running the business, Snyder paused and said, “I think it’s cliche, but staffing. I think I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to retain people. We are lucky to have good people.”

He admitted the worries of running his restaurant occasionally hound him in the middle of the night.

There’s more competition for him than ever.

Some 25 years ago, there simply weren’t the number of franchise restaurants that can now be found on the Golden Strip just west of Montoursville, he said.

But competition is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It makes you better,” he said. “There’s more people coming into the area so there’s more need (for restaurants).”