What's in a name? The small diner adjacent to Buell's Fuel (formerly the Musical Museum) has had many names over the years. Built by Art Sanders in 1955 next to the increasingly popular Musical Museum, it was first intended as a place visitors could go for coffee, ice cream, pie, as well as use the expanded rest rooms. But after some thought, it was decided to make it larger with a manager, cook, wait staff, several tables and a separate kitchen, offering three meals a day. It was called the Music Box, and was opened July 5, 1955.
George Rittenberger was the first person to rent the restaurant, with the help of Barney Quakenbush and several local workers. He was there until the fall of 1955, when Johanne Jipson, Doris Hinman and Sue Kennard took over, which lasted until 1962.
After that, a series of people ran the Music Box restaurant with varying degrees of success. At that point, the Sanders family, who owned the building and the equipment associated with the restaurant, decided that they would be responsible for insuring and maintaining the building only. The renters from then on out should purchase their own equipment, insure it, and maintain it.
The next people to manage the Music Box restaurant was in 1962, when the Carroll Dow family, who lived on Route 315, where Jackie Williams lives today, were responsible for day-to-day operations. They planned to open at 6:00 a.m., and remain open until 9:00 p.m. The Dows planned a noon special every day. The restaurant was also the scene of a bake sale, for the benefit of the Deansboro Grade School.
Following the Dows, the restaurant was operated by the Bernard Tucker family, of Dugway Road, including the older and younger generations. They came in 1965 until 1968. A few months after the Tuckers left, the Music Box restaurant was heavily damaged by fire and smoke. A passing motorist spotted smoke coming from the building, which had been closed, and the Barton Hose Company was quickly on the scene. They were successful in preventing the fire in the kitchen from spreading but found it necessary to open the roof to allow the intense heat to escape, thus preventing an all-out blaze. The remainder of the interior was extensively damaged by smoke and water. Art Sanders, owner of the Music Box and the adjacent Musical Museum, commended the quick action of the firemen and reported that the restaurant would be opened again soon under new management.
The new management was in 1968 under Leona Ludwig from West Winfield, who renamed the restaurant the Dinner Bell. That continued to be the name until 1971. Then it was taken over by Joyce Leaf of Deansboro, who, with her husband Edward, ran it for several years until his death in 1974, and then continued to run it until 1982. At that time, it was called Joyce's Dinner Bell. The restaurant was closed for a couple of years, and was then re-opened by Gene Bickford and his wife Beverly from Crogan.
After the Bickfords, the restaurant was rented by Edna and Paul Bickoski and Bev Kennard in the mid-1980s, still called the Dinner Bell. In 1992, Wesley Wendt took over and called the restaurant Apple Betty's Dinner Bell. That continued until 1997 when Joan McNamara, who worked at the diner, purchased the equipment from him and went into business. A few years later, she acquired the entire property, including that which was formerly the Musical Museum, at auction. She operated the diner for many years as Joan's Country Cafe. Joan's staff consisted of Kathy Tallman, Helga Rush, Linda Elliot, and Helen Wormouth, as well as part-time help including her daughter Cami on weekends. The atmosphere at Joan's was friendly and cozy.
In the mid 2000s, Joan sold the property to Mike Buell, who operates a thriving business dealing in heating oil, kerosene and diesel fuel. He rented the restaurant to Kris Eisenhut, who ran it until Kristen Jones took over in the fall of 2014. Kristen, with Scott Jones and Howie Jennings, manage what is now called Kristen's Kountry Kafe, with the same homey, cozy, familiar ambiance as well as fantastic food. It's a great place to meet and greet fellow townsfolk.
No matter what it's named, it remains a first-class diner, and Deansboro is very fortunate to retain it.