By Stephanie Morton
Smitty’s In and Out has been an Elma institution for about 60 years, and Debbie Scott, owner, is matter-of-fact about the November arrival of national burger chain, Burger King, at the opposite end of town.
“The first week, it was very noticeable,” Scott said of the chain’s impact on her small burger operation on West Main Street in Elma. “The second week was still slow but by the third week, it’s almost back to normal.”
Scott said she knows her restaurant can survive the dip in traffic because she’s been through it before. Business was affected when the Subway sandwich restaurant opened years ago and once when Main Street was closed for a time.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Scott said. “We just concentrate on the positive. We’re fortunate to have a business that the community has supported.”
Her son, Mark Bosler, the manager at Smitty’s, agreed. “We know what we have here. We know our quality. The best, freshest quality food and great customer service.”
It helps, too, that Smitty’s has a secret weapon that keeps customers coming back even during the slower winter months. The ice cream, used in their thick shakes and, of course, in ice cream cones, is extra creamy.
“Our shakes our popular year-round,” Bosler said. “Even when it’s winter.” Also popular are the Mike Burger — a double burger with mayo and relish — and the bacon burger, which Bosler eats almost every day.
Scott, on the other hand, prefers a plain burger patty. “I know it’s different,” she said laughing. “I just think the burger tastes very good.”
Much of the menu, including the regular burger with pickle, pickle relish and mustard, remains the same as when Scott’s grandmother owned Smitty’s. Scott’s grandmother purchased the burger restaurant from the original owner, John Smith, in 1966 and Scott took over in 1985. Scott worked at the restaurant while growing up and through school.
With a finance background, Scott runs a tight ship. She keeps spreadsheets to make sure ordering is precise and the cold storage area behind the restaurant is efficient and organized. And it has to be, says Scott, because of the tiny space in the restaurant itself.
Many of the Smitty’s employees are Elma High School students, and Bosler said it was important to contribute to the community by providing jobs to young people in Elma.
“Sometimes, this is their first job,” Bosler said. “We train them, show them what it’s like to work and help them get out in the world.”
Because of school and activities, scheduling 15 part-time employees can be a headache, Scott said. But she makes it work for her employees. One student worked only one day a week because of their class schedule at a local college.
“It’s like having 15 teenage kids, and we make sure to work around everyone’s activities,” Scott said. “It keeps us in touch with the community, though, and especially the kids,” she said.
Scott said while her business had felt the effects of the new burger restaurant in town, it was good to have another option in Elma, especially after a big event like a football game.
Both Bosler and Scott said it was thanks to hard work and loyal customers that the little restaurant endures. They said that many people had made an extra effort to tell them they were behind them and supportive of their business.
“We have great customers,” Scott said. “People have made sure to tell us that they love our food. And that they’ll keep coming back.”