In many ways Bobbi's Coffee Shop was a home-away-from-home for its patrons where the staff knew customers by name and the pictures and ceramic figurines that decorated the place made people feel comfortable.
It was always Spic-n-Span clean when Bobbi Thorne, the original owner, ran the diner.
"I treated it like my home," she says. "Not that I brag but you could eat off my floor."
The memory of how she tended her own home-away-from-home knotted her gut when she walked into her namesake restaurant about 18 months ago.
"I walked in and walked right back out," Thorne says. "It was clean, but not clean enough for me. I ran my shop like I keep my house."
What got plated up and served to customers was given the same consideration.
"My food was fresh, not frozen. Everything was homemade," Thorne says.
But that wasn't the impression left with "Saratoga Steve" who, in a comment left on Patch, expressed displeasure with the recent food and service at Bobbi's.
"I get it. Bobbi's was quaint, old school, homey, etc. I used to take my two young sons there on weekends, too. But I think I just outgrew it over the course of a couple of years. The food was oh so greasy, those 'awesome' hashbrowns would take a few hours to digest. And I didn't think they were really that friendly, especially when I asked them to enforce the no smoking rule at a restaurant in their outdoor seating," he wrote.
And when Thorne read that comment, it struck home.
"I had a very good cook, Donny (McKercher). His food never was ever greasy. I saw one man said 'greasy', that must have been after me, because Donny was a marvelous cook," Thorne says.
McKercher started as a dishwasher and "became a great cook," Thorne says, and was with her for 21 years.
"He would watch how I made my soups, etc. and took right up on it. He was like one of my kids. His children are like my grandchildren. They still call me 'Grandma Bobbi,'" she says.
Reached in Laguna Beach where she was visiting family, Thorne now resides full time in Las Vegas, she says she and her then-husband took over the diner in 1969 under the name Mini Gourmet. They were running the Mini Gourmet "up the street in a little place" and had outgrown it, she says. They had another Mini Gourmet in San Jose on Bascom and Moopark Avenues that's still in business, though she has not owned it for a long time.
When she and her husband divorced she got the lease on the Yamagami-owned building—because the owners wouldn't lease to her husband, she says—and renamed it Bobbi's Coffee Shop.
Years later she sold the shop along with the name, Bobbi's Coffee Shop, and all her recipes, including the soups, which were popular. Customers would bring by their own big pots to buy soup—especially her vegetable soup, she says—to take home for meals.
"Donny went with (the shop) and Donny knew all the soups. I let them have everything. My customers all loved the soup and I just couldn't take (the soups) away from them," she says.
Now she is concerned a potential buyer, , won't live up to the standards of the Bobbi's name; something which she and recent customers agree was not upheld under the last ownership.
for failure by current owner Mary Miljarak to pay several months' rent totaling more than $56,000. A situation that rankles Thorne and has pushed her to regret selling her shop's name. But, longtimers in the area say they are able to separate the real Bobbi and what she started from recent management.
"I think Bobbi should be proud that the little diner with her name on it became such a Cupertino landmark. She should take that away from this and not be as concerned about the name staying. Whoever and whatever business takes over the space, it should carry a sign that at a minimum says, 'Formerly the site of Bobbi's...'" wrote Patch reader Bob M.
And another reader, Flashlight Battery, commented: "This problem in no way reflects on Bobbi. We love her and are grateful we had a 'place to go' for so many years. It was like being at home. Thank you Bobbi."
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Editor's note: This is a continuation of the series in which Bobbi Thorne (formerly Shepherd) shares her memories of the time she owned and ran Bobbi's Coffee Shop, considered a "bastion" of Cupertino.