Bobby Williamson didn't see his patrons as customers -- he considered them friends.
Williamson, 54, will bid them farewell today as The Coffee Nook in Kennewick closes its doors for the final time at 2 p.m.
"I'm completely out," Williamson said. "Because of my health and stuff, I just can't do it."
The Coffee Nook has occupied its place on Columbia Drive since the mid-1970s, Williamson said. The location was home to the original Spudnut Shop in the 1960s. He took over the business in 2001, working for free the first two years to help the previous owners avoid having to file for bankruptcy.
Williamson had planned to turn the business over to Coffee Nook waitress Lucinda Hendricksen. That arrangement has been scuttled, because of decisions made by the property manager.
"They decided they don't want to have a restaurant there anymore," Williamson said.
Earlier this year, the location -- 714 W. Columbia Drive -- was approved for a retail marijuana business. That was stymied by Kennewick's decision to place a temporary ban on recreational marijuana businesses operating within city limits.
With the restaurant's closure looming, Williamson doesn't expect The Coffee Nook to continue.
"I believe it will be the last Kennewick will ever see of it," Williamson said.
Still, Williamson has his memories.
"We kind of catered to the people who were looking for a home-type life," Williamson said. "My friends -- I don't even call them customers -- we created a family over there."
Williamson knew many of his customers' orders before they sat down. One man kept a special coffee mug at the restaurant. He recalled watching children grow into teenagers and even playing host to Wednesday evening church services for jail inmates.
"We appreciate what the Tri-Cities have given us, especially Kennewick," Williamson said.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org