Cecil’s Cafe closes

Long-time eatery was founded in 1960

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Cecil’s Cafe, the popular eatery founded in 1960, has officially closed its doors. First operated by Cecil Johnson, the restaurant had served as a meeting place for a variety of clubs and gatherings.

Cecil’s Cafe, the iconic business located at 13 Iowa Avenue East, has served its last customers.

First founded in 1960 by the late Cecil Johnson, the eatery, known for its breakfast fare and tenderloins, has officially closed its doors. In its later years, the restaurant was operated by Cecil’s son Gordie Johnson. Two years ago, he sold it to Kim Keyes.

“It’s a sad day for Marshalltown,” Johnson said in a statement to the T-R.

Efforts to reach Keyes for comment were unsuccessful.

The business not only served its loyal dining patrons, but provided meeting space for a variety of clubs, social groups and had hosted a slew of political candidates through the years.

“I loved it when I was young and my dad would call it a ‘greasy spoon.’ Loved that place,” Laurie Kramer said of her experience.

Now, all the community is left with is nearly 60 years of memories.

“I worked there from age 14-18 — until 1974 — as a dishwasher,” Deb Hazen Fiser said. “And my hubby’s mother was Eva — she was the head cook there until she died.”

Patron Addie Bane said it was her son’s favorite breakfast spot.

“The owners were fantastic and always provided such great service,” Bane said.

The restaurant was also known for its cheerful, plump rooftop chicken mascot.

“Chicken in the sky restaurant is what my grandson called it,” Darla Knutson said.

Nancy Adams said she hopes the city can keep or purchase the rooster because it is an iconic, genuine vintage sculpture.

Michelle Roseburrough, Administrator of the Historical Society of Marshall County, said its closure impacts Marshalltown’s history.

“Cecil’s has been a Marshalltown landmark, and from a historical perspective, it is always sad to lose a place that figures strongly in the memories of those in our community,” Roseburrough said. “Personally, it was always a treat to get to eat there when I visited my grandparents, who lived just down the road on old (Highway) 30 at the Pianoforte. My son tried to go there last weekend when he was home from college and was disappointed to find it closed. He’s sad about the closure, as Cecil’s has always been a favorite of my diner-loving kid.”

Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynn Olberding said in order to maintain businesses locally, the public needs to frequent them.

“It is always difficult to lose a business in the community, especially one with such a long history of serving Marshalltown. That’s why the Chamber’s ‘Think Local First’ message is as important now as it has ever been,” she said. “If you can get what you need or want in the community, please do so and support the local businesses and organizations that support so many of the events and activities we enjoy in Marshalltown.”


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com


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