BY JORDAN OTERO
Students at Franciscan University of Steubenville, not unlike other college students nationwide, are perpetually searching for inexpensive but delicious places to satisfy their food cravings. When it came to local breakfast joints, Franciscan students ranked Spanky’s Pancake House in Wintersville at the top of their favorites list.
However, students will have to feed their appetite for pancakes, eggs and bacon elsewhere, now that Spanky’s Pancake House has abruptly closed their doors for business.
The restaurant, owned by Wintersville resident Frank Rihaly, unexpectedly closed down two weeks ago. The reason remains a mystery to patrons as well as village and county officials.
Village Administrator Walt Ziemba and office staff members say they “have no clue” as to why Rihaly decided to close the business.
Only rumors have been circulating regarding Rihaly’s motives for closing up shop — that he simply tired of the business, that employees weren’t showing up to work, and the like – but no one knows for certain.
“We didn’t even know (Spanky’s) was closed until our customers started calling and asking about it,” said Ray Bright, manager of Big Lots in Wintersville, which is also owned by Rihaly.
Bright said that Big Lots, as well as other businesses in the plaza, are still paying rent to Rihaly.
Meanwhile, Franciscan students mourn the loss of a favorite breakfast hangout.
“I’m really sad because I had so many memories there,” said junior Ashley Svoboda. “It’s sad to see a place that you love so much go, because of the memories that go with it.”
Svoboda recalled visiting Spanky’s to satisfy a craving for chocolate chip pancakes her first weekend back in America after spending a semester in Austria.
“Coming back from Austria, you’re so disoriented and you want to be welcomed back,” she said. Spanky’s was “so homey … and such an environment to foster a good conversation. It’s our culture.”
Senior Kirstin Kleb agreed with Svoboda that the atmosphere at Spanky’s was part of what made the restaurant special and a centerpiece of Franciscan student life.
“It was always so refreshing to walk in and get some homemade food,” she said. “Last year … it was the first place my friends and I went for breakfast and we had such a good time catching up from the summer. Even after we had finished eating, we just sat talking, not feeling like we had to leave.”
Spanky’s was “truly part of the Franciscan community,” she added.
Sophomore Julie Fleming was disappointed with the closing of the restaurant as well.
“I never even got a chance to go,” she said. “I had always heard good things about the food there, especially the pancakes. Now I’ll never get to try them.”
Whether or not the restaurant will reopen at some point in the future remains to be seen. For now, Franciscan students will have to hold onto their memories of Spanky’s Pancake House and find a new post-Sunday Mass breakfast stop.
Rihaly did not return requests seeking comment in time for publication.