Morning Ritual

Coffee and conversation flow at the Old Timer Café

Story and photos by BEKHI SPIKA

Named after the old-timers who gather for coffee and talk in the early morning, the Old Timer Café has been a staple of in the Mission Valley community for 27 years.

Many of the original old-timers have died and new old-timers have been inducted into the 6 a.m. coffee ritual, an affair that combines good-natured bantering and camaraderie. Many of the morning customers are in their mid-70s and hearing-impaired, so much of the jesting goes unheard. But the chatter is always lively.

“The old-timers are an interesting group,” said Jim Burckhard, co-owner of the café. “They’ll speak their minds.”

Two regulars, Jim Hackney and Leonard Pierce, own local competing construction companies. They joke that they sit across from each morning because it’s easier to slap each other that way.

Charlie James, another old-timer, developed the popular Sweetheart Magazine, a publication that connected singles with each other before the Internet. Even though the magazine hasn’t been published for a while, James says he still gets messages from singles looking for love.

Although The Old Timer Café has had four sets of owners since 1984, cook Tracy Orr has been with the café since the beginning. She said the café has its fair share of regulars, from local Amish families and Griz fans to famous Nashville singers.

“Word’s gotten around that this is the only place you can eat in St. Ignatius,” she says. “Everyone hears about the people and food.”

But the food is just part of the attraction, she adds with a laugh.

“Actually, you get entertainment when you come here,” she says.