Furr's has come to the end of the line in Oklahoma City.
The cafeteria line was long gone. Now the all-you-care-to-eat buffet line is gone.
Furr's Family Dining at French Market Mall, nee Furr's Cafeteria, closed last week, leaving longtime customers in the lunch. It was a dining destination at NW 63 and May for 39 years.
The chopped steak au jus with mushrooms, the baked cod almondine — the suite of salads, variety of vegetables, diversity of desserts, no more.
No more tall Jell-O.
Take a tray
It's just a big lonesome dining room now, booths crowded to one side, chairs stacked and dishes bused for the last time. The trays are cleared. In the kitchen, pots, pans and kettle are cool and clean; the mixer, fryer and slicer are idled; the stoves, oven and refrigerators emptied.
What remains lasts just until Tuesday, when auctioneer Louis Dakil sells off every last bit of it. The sale starts at 10 a.m. The closed restaurant will be open for inspection of sale items from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and from 8 a.m. to sale time Tuesday.
“We're going to sell everything, wall to wall, ceiling to the floor,” Dakil said. “If you want something, memorabilia, or (something) you need in your business, we're going to have it.”
A sign on the front door directs customers to the Furr's Fresh Buffet on Interstate 35 near SW 19 Street in Moore. Lawton and Tulsa also have Furr's Fresh Buffet locations.
The owners, Dallas-based Buffet Partners LP, also have restaurants in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas, where brothers Roy and Key Furr started out in the cafeteria business in 1946.
Changes in consumer tastes and preferences doomed the dining room, said David Wilburn, one of the managers of the closed Furr's in north Oklahoma City. The cafeteria once trained Furr's managers before sending them out to run their own places, he said.
“Furr's nowadays is looking to go to the buffet concept instead of the straight line cafeterias. That's the new concept that people like. This lease was over so they decided to shut it down,” said Wilburn, who has worked for Furr's since 1999.
News of the closing brought back memories.
“I used to work at Venture, which was where Bed Bath & Beyond is now. Furr's was the best place for the lunch break. Cheap and fast. And if you helped an elderly customer, sometimes they'd buy you dessert!” Deirdre Newcomb, of Edmond, wrote in a Facebook comment.
Kinsey Crocker, of Oklahoma City, commented: “Oh no! That's terrible news. Even though people make fun of me for it, I love cafeteria food, and that Furr's was my favorite. My grandma and I used to meet there for lunch. I hate that cafeterias are so unpopular.”
Scott Kinnaird, of Edmond, said he was a regular there years ago when he managed the shopping center's movie theater.
“I was friends with the security guard, Troy, and we would eat lunch together there quite a bit,” he said. “He would flirt with the young girls behind the line and get two slices of pie and they would tell him he was going to get fat if he kept eating so much pie.
“I'll save the rest of the story, but it's not too hard to figure out. I had my 21st birthday lunch with my parents at that Furr's. Good food and good times. Sorry to see it close.”
Wilburn said the Furr's was still serving about 4,000 people a week, but that sales had fallen below what the owners required to keep it in operation. Buffet Partners LP could not be reached for comment in Dallas.
Brokers who market space in French Market Mall did not expect to see the 10,000-square-foot Furr's go dark.
“We are honestly surprised that Furr's did not renew their lease, as per the sales volumes reported to the landlord, the restaurant would appear to be profitable,” said Mark Inman, who markets the space with fellow broker Stuart Graham of CB Richard Ellis-Oklahoma.
“Although it is hard to see a long-standing tenant leave, their leaving and the property will open up opportunities for leasing to other national tenants that might better complement the existing tenant mix as well as the parking load, not to mention credit ratings. Expect some new tenant announcements in the coming months.”