Young’s Restaurant: A Durham Tradition
If you have ever driven down Main Street in Durham NH, you have seen Young’s Restaurant, and if you live here, there is a good chance you have eaten at Young’s. The business has been here since 1916, when Jack Grant opened up Grant’s Cafe on what is known today as Jenkins Court. A few years later in 1920, he bought the land on Main Street where the business now known as Young’s still stands today.
Grant’s Cafe became Young’s Restuarant and Coffee Shop in 1968 when Dick and Annette Young of Dover purchased the business. Young’s is a family owned business to this day.
Kenny Young, the present owner and operator, was 11 years old when his parents purchased the restaurant. He remembers fondly his mother’s words: “Dick, take Kenny to work with you today." Kenny actually painted the entire building himself one summer when he was 14 years old.
Young’s was everything to everyone. One side was a single counter for food service offering fresh-made breakfast and lunch, and the other side was a store where you could choose from a variety of cigarettes, candy and magazines. In 1987, Kenny oversaw a redesign of the building and that is where he really learned about how to run a business. In 1990, when his parents retired, Kenny and his wife Cathy took over the business.
To the locals, Young’s is iconic Durham NH. To Kenny Young, it is the way he earns a living and he loves doing it. Kenny loves the physical work but he especially enjoys the interactions with people, both the customers and the employees. Kenny Young considers himself a blessed man to be able to do what he loves.
Kenny has been cooking at the restaurant for 40 years and has often described himself as “just an egg flipper." You will find the usual breakfast and lunch fare on the menu, however at Young’s there is something more. Kenny Young is proud to say that Young’s is dedicated to sustainability. He has devoted the last 20 years to providing locally-sourced products and focusing on sustainable practices in all areas of the business.
This commitment inspired Kenny to build a greenhouse at his own home. Kenny says “the greenhouse changed everything." Changing his focus reenergized him and moved him in a new positive direction that he is truly excited about. Kenny includes his own produce in the menu choices, wasting nothing along the way and offering true farm-to-table choices. This commitment led to Young’s recieving the Green Giant Leader of the Year Award in 2013, which honored their sustainability practices and support of local food production.
It should not be a surprise to anyone who knows Kenny that he should find a niche in growing his own produce. Kenny comes from a farming family. Kenny’s grandfather first purchased Great Elm Farm in Gonic, NH which is where he raised his family, and Kenny says that if he was 30 years younger he would go back and buy the farm, build greenhouses, and grow food.
His commitment to sustainable living and his care for the environment are also represented in his enthusiasm for hiking. Kenny is competive by nature and loves the physical and mental challenge that climbing mountains gives him. He climbs every week, all year 'round. Kenny is working on completing The Grid ,which is a list of climbs requiring hikers to complete each of the 48 White Mountain "4000 footers" each month of the year.
There is another family member that is front and center to all who enter the restaurant. Kenny’s sister Tina is the front person and considers herself the “quieter “ Young. She is the smiling face we all are greeted with and welcomed by. Tina is a bit older than her brother and worked in the restaurant as well as the two other businesses her parents owned, through high school. Tina came back to work at the restaurant when Kenny and Cathy took over. She can tell you the story of when Kenny walked into where she was working at the time and asked her to come back to work at the restaurant.
Tina loves her job and especially loves the people that she gets to see and meet. She has interacted with a lot of the people that make up the fabric of Durham over the years, and has even been called by people looking to find out the welfare of someone or where they can be found. She has fond memories of the people that she has greeted and served over the years and it is this community of people that she loves best.
Young’s Restaurant (and before that, Grant’s Cafe) has been a focal point of Durham for over 100 years. Time moves on and things change. So where is Young’s going? Well according to Kenny Young,Young’s is not going anywhere anytime soon. That is good to hear!