UNION BRIDGE — Ken E. Taylor has pulled kitchen duty so often at the fire department dinners here that he's decided to tie on the apron strings full time with a place of his own.
"I have learned a lot about cooking forcrowds," he said. "I decided to put that experience to work."
Taylor said he knows first-hand how much the town of nearly 1,000residents needs a restaurant. Visitors often walked up as he sat on his Main Street porch and asked where to find the nearest restaurant.Now, instead of directing people to the pizza parlor or the VFW hall, he can point straight down Broadway.
Oct. 1, he plans to open Ken's Country Kitchen at 4 1/2 W. Broadway, turning what used to be thetown's busiest nightspot into a family diner.
The kitchen will keep earlier hours -- 5 a.m. to 9 p.m -- than its predecessor, Joby's. Taylor declined to transfer Joby's liquor license to his restaurant. He said he would rather serve ice cream sodas than wine and beer.
"There's five establishments in town where people can buy booze, so I'm not going to have any," said Taylor, who moved here from Westminster about five years ago. "I just want a family establishment, where parents can bring the kids and have a nice meal for a reasonable price."
He did buy Joby's equipment, including billiard tables, a juke box and arcade games. His landlord, Tammy Hildebrand of Germantown, gave him a break on the $500 a month rent after he purchased the kitchen appliances.
Taylor, 47, left his job in novelties sales July 4 and has devoted his time to the business, doing much of the remodeling and cleanup himself.
Old-time cooking utensils and pans will soon cover the freshly painted walls. Some walls took five coats of white paint to cover the former Joby's decor. He may add a large bay window to let sunshine brighten the interior.
The main dining room canseat about 85 patrons. The restaurant has room for about 40 more in an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and a game room in the rear of the building. A separate entrance leads to this area, which Taylor hopes will attract the town's teens.
"I want to keep the kids off the street and give them a place to hang out, besides the pizza shop," he said. "Of course, I hope they will spend some money here, too."
About seven of those teens will be working for Taylor. Mike Phelps, 15, already has begun his job on the kitchen crew. The Francis Scott Key High School sophomore would like to work about three hours a day after school. He said he was "all for" the boss's idea to attract youth.
"There's really not much to do here," said Mike. "I think quite a few kids would like to have a place like this."
Taylor, whose three children are young adults now, said he knows how to supervise without intruding. If all goes well, he said, he might hire a disc jockey to play for teen dances on weekends.
"I know how kids are, and I know they need understanding," he said. "They will have to keep the music down when the dining room is full, but this will be their place."
Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said he is enthusiastic about having a new restaurant in town.
"We can use a family restaurant here," saidthe mayor. "We had one a long time ago. They remodeled extensively and raised their prices, and that was it."
Taylor hopes to garner the weekday breakfast and lunch crowd, too, and will sell carry-out meals to diners hurrying to their jobs. The country kitchen's Sunday buffet may just become the "in" place, he said.
Taylor said he hasn't set a time limit to measure his success in the restaurant business.
"I don't care if I make a fortune," he said. "As long as I can meet my expenses and make a living, I'll keep on going."