According to owner and manager Lynn Short, the story behind Garden of Eat’n in Canton is not a very exciting one.
“I just needed a job,” she simply stated as 605 sat with her on a late Thursday morning. “It was a church in the very beginning when it was built in 1889.”
Then, Short says, in the early ‘20s it was a gas station until the late ‘70s. It sat empty until 1982, when she saw the opportunity to open a restaurant in the location.
“It was a mess. A third of the floor was dirt, a third of the floor was concrete, and a third was wood,” recalled Short.
Another problem? She entered the situation without a game plan. Should they lean into the gas station motif or the church? Short says fate took the wheel when country churches in the area were closing or moving and held auctions.
“I didn’t do it to get rich. I was smart enough to know the restaurant business is not something you’re going to get rich doing.”
“It was like it was meant to be because we went and we bought church pews and church décor,” she said.
Then they had to decide on a name.
“We first thought of The Ten Condiments, but we weren’t sure if it would click well,” said Short. “Then one day we thought of the Garden of Eat’n, and then the apples just started happening. Everything was just kind of an accident.”
Along with the move, the menu would also be risky. Short says she wanted to serve deli style sandwiches, and in the ‘80s it was almost unheard of.
“You gotta remember this was a long time ago, there weren’t any Subways. I mean, they hadn’t even invented Diet Coke then,” she laughed. “We’ve been here 37 years. It’s hard to believe.”
One of the most popular sandwiches has been the Taco Sub. The other most popular item, the daily soup special, was shockingly a hard sell as well when the restaurant first opened.
Garden of Eat’n is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“It used to be that I couldn’t sell soup to save my soul,” said Short. “It was a farm community who wanted meat, potatoes, vegetables, and dessert. We started out with just chili, and then I started gradually adding this and that, and it became a big thing where soups caught on.”
Along with sandwiches and soups, the lunchtime spot serves a few Mexican food items, malts, ice cream, and fresh-baked goods, like homemade pie. The pie, as you could guess, also came to be by happenstance.
“I had an apple tree and I thought that I needed to get rid of all of the apples, so I started making pies,” said Short. “Then my apple tree fell down, but I was stuck because I’m pretty famous for my pie, so I had to keep making them.”
The seasonal business sees most year-round visitors from the courthouse, while the busiest time comes from those traveling on the highway and visitors to Newton Hills during the spring and summer months.
Looking back on Garden of Eat’n’s story, Short said earnestly, “I did have a business plan… but as I look back it was a joke.”
After tasting its delicious offerings, we’re not laughing.
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