Popular Coplay eatery closes
For three decades, Bill's Lunch on North Second Street, Coplay, served meals to area residents.
The landmark eatery closed at 3 p.m. Saturday when owners Mary and Bill Balliet cooked and served their final steak sandwich and bowl of soup.
It was the 32nd anniversary, to the day, of its opening Aug. 4, 1979. Over the years, the Balliets and daughters Renee and Tammy served countless patrons, many of whom came to be seen as part of the family.
The couple had not planned to close but made the decision to do so after Mary's physician diagnosed her with early stage breast cancer. Surgery is scheduled for Aug. 24 at Lehigh Valley Hospital and she expects to make a full recovery.
Over the years, Mary would acknowledge customers coming through the restaurant's doors with a smile and welcome greeting as she stood behind the grill cooking.
Bill spent much of his time on the road driving school bus for the Whitehall-Coplay School District and scouring local markets for fresh meats, bacon and produce.
Her voice cracking and tears welling in her eyes, Mary spoke little about her cancer, instead concentrating on the patrons, many of whom had been coming to the restaurant since it opened.
"They are fantastic," Mary said.
Many of the customers live only a short walk from the eatery. Others had to drive for the food and ambience.
"I will miss so many people," Mary said.
The crowds were large all week as word spread about the closing. Tears could be seen all around, along with hugs and kisses. Some customers brought flowers and others brought well wishes.
Mary presented Lynn Krill of Northampton with a bottle of ketchup as Krill enjoyed a generous dose with his eggs and potatoes.
According to Bill, the restaurant did not have one signature dish.
"There were many," according to Mary. These included ethnic meals such as chicken paprikash, halupkies, cabbage and noodles and pork and sauerkraut.
The kitchen was located behind the bar and fresh potatoes were cut along with bacon from slabs.
The posted restaurant hours had been 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. However, it often opened earlier and closed later.
"We were not yet married when I told Mary I was going into the restaurant business, opening as Bill's Lunch. She was not in favor of the idea, but once we had the restaurant she loved it," Bill said.
Both enjoy cooking.
"I learned a lot from my mother and her recipes," Mary said.
Mary added her own soup and home-styled cream cucumbers to the menu.
Bill said he learned about cooking when he was 3 years old, standing on a chair watching his grandmother cook.
"We [had] a lot of food people come in for not only hot dogs, breakfast and dinner, but for steak sandwiches," Bill said.