McAnn’s has been a fixture in the Spencer-Van Etten community for more than the 49 years Bob Bowen has worked there. McAnn’s was opened by Mickey and Ann Herko, hence the name (a combination of their two names). They sold it to John and Ruth Sandusky, who hired Bob in 1971. Bob ended up taking over the business when he was just 23 and has been working at it ever since – 46 years.
“We were going to retire, but we didn’t know how to go about it – and then this (COVID) happened,” Ruthie Bowen said. “It’s been very hard.” Closing now seemed the right thing to do, so in early June, they put the word out via Facebook that McAnn’s Restaurant’s last day would be June 13. Since then there was a flood of orders for people who want to get some McAnn’s food before those doors close permanently. Are they going to sell the restaurant? Yes, down the road a bit, when the economy improves. As Bob Bowen said, “We hate to leave the community without a place to socialize, but the time is right. It’s best for us.”
Looking back over his long tenure at McAnn’s, Bob is grateful for many things: he especially appreciates the training of John Sandusky. “He was an awesome mentor,” said Bob. “We’d spend hours after closing talking about the ins and outs of the business.” Bob felt well-prepared to take on such a huge responsibility, even though he was quite young.
Bob is thankful for the community, the surrounding communities, and even the international customers who have come to McAnn’s to eat. “We’ve had people from around the world here,” he mused. He is thankful for the terrific employees they’ve had over the years, most of whom were with the restaurant for many years. “It was great working with the SVE Youth Association and the other non-profits in the community. As much as we gave, we got more in return.” Those organizations knew they could count on McAnn’s to sponsor, donate or in other ways support local benefits and fundraisers.
“We are retiring because of our age,” continued Bob. “And changes in society. I’m turning 69. The time is right for us.” Bob and Ruthie will be missed greatly, as will their restaurant. Tony Chiusano said that he and his wife ate there every Friday night “since forever,” and their kids were with them from the time they were newborns. Like many families, their kids, Anthony and Lauren, grew up in McAnn’s. Bob Stein of Van Etten, our almost centenarian, told his daughter, Bobbi Brock, “This is the only business in 100 years that I’ll miss.”
To show the Bowens how much the community loves and appreciates their many years of hard work and commitment to Spencer-Van Etten, Tony Chiusano organized a parade of cars and fire trucks to drive by McAnn’s on Friday night. There were balloons and horns and 100 to 150 cars, full of well-wishers, with more people standing on the sidewalks and the post office. It was supposed to be a surprise parade and they did succeed in surprising Ruthie, who knew nothing about it in advance. Both she and Bob were touched by this outpouring of affection.