Bill Johnson's Big Apple Restaurant will soon close its doors

If you were a kid eating at Bill Johnson's Big Apple Restaurant, the clown face pancake might have been your favorite.

For the adults, the list of your favorites was long; cowboy comfort food.

"They got super good chicken fried steak," said one visitor.

"I like the biscuits and gravy," said another guest.

"Pork chops and eggs," said another.

This will be a bittersweet week of memories and goodbyes at the restaurant on Van Buren.

"Slightly devastated, it's been a long time, and we are all sorry to see it go," said a customer.

The restaurant was opened in 1956 by Bill Johnson and his wife, Jean. She was in charge of the recipes, he was known for his big personality.

Johnson died in 1966, but the restaurant continued expanding until there were six other Bill Johnson's across the valley.

A few years ago the company filed bankruptcy, and the original restaurant on Van Buren Avenue in Phoenix was the last one standing.

It still does brisk business, but it's not enough to keep the doors open.

"We've had a lot of financial struggles, they've closed down all the locations, and pretty much there is a mountain of debt that one little store cannot take on," said manager Randi Beswick.

The unusual, yet charming rustic decor will be auctioned off, but for now there is still a little time to make some new memories.

"Grandpa used to take me here when I was his age; we lived down the street," said Alonzo.

Alonzo brought his son here to say goodbye to Bill Johnson's and happy trails.

"It's a piece of Arizona history, and it seems like so much of it we're losing. You know a lot of these old restaurants and places, you know it's just we're losing a lot of our culture here unfortunately I think," he said.
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