Dining With Denise Neil

Customers worry that favorite diner will be torn down with The Eagle

The Wichita Eagle building next door will soon be gone, but The Beacon is staying, owners say.
The Wichita Eagle building next door will soon be gone, but The Beacon is staying, owners say. The Wichita Eagle

By now, most people know that The Wichita Eagle building is not long for this world. Later this year, it will be torn down to make way for Cargill’s $60 million headquarters and the Eagle staff will move to a high-tech new spot in Old Town Square.

But apparently, those people are much less clear on the fate of The Eagle’s neighboring restaurant, The Beacon, at 909 E. Douglas. The restaurant, which has been operating under a variety of names since 1938, is often associated with the paper, especially since longtime Wichitans still frequently refer to the publication as The Beacon, a remnant of the time from 1980 to 1989 when it was known as The Wichita Eagle-Beacon.

Late Monday night, restaurant management took to Facebook to clear up any rumors.

“There has been a lot of concern about what will happen to the Beacon when they tear down the Wichita Eagle,” the post read. “Don't worry, we will still be here! We are staying open.”

Stacey Case, a longtime cashier and waitress at The Beacon, said this morning that customers have been excessively concerned. The confusion stems, she said, from the artist rendering of the future Cargill building that has been appearing in local publications. It’s hard to tell, Case said, whether The Beacon building is still there.

“Every day customers are asking us if we’re going to close down when the Eagle building is gone,” she said.

But the diner, popular for its deliciously greasy breakfasts and blue-plate lunch specials, is staying put, a decision that could pay off when the new Cargill building is done in 2018 and moves in 800 employees.

Mike Martin, director of communications for Cargill, Inc., said that the parcel where The Beacon sits is not part of the property for the future headquarters.

“We look forward to The Beacon remaining where it is, which will be mutually beneficial,” he said.

The Beacon made my list of Wichita’s oldest restaurants that I published last year, clocking in at No. 5. Back in 1938, it opened as Curley’s Inn and was owned by J.B. Bright and his wife, Elva. He did the cooking. She ran the register. The diner seated 28 customers, who could buy a cup of coffee, two doughnuts and a hot roll for a nickel. In 1987, Al Harris bought the diner and changed the name to The Beacon. Today, it’s owned by John Lee and his son, Andrew Lee.

On a personal note, I can say that when we move to Old Town Square this spring, I and many hungry members of The Wichita Eagle staff are going to miss our proximity to The Beacon, where during the summer we run over to get The Nantucket special, where one of our editors always takes interns and interviewees for their welcome breakfasts, and where some staffers faithfully order the salmon patties and creamed peas special on Fridays.