BATAVIA – At the Elms in Batavia, the soda is served in frosted mugs. The meat is prepared fresh to order. And the walk-up window is a favorite of shoeless neighborhood children, still wet from Quarry Beach, who stop for ice cream cones before heading home.
Inside, Geri Morrison greets customers with a warm welcome when they approach the counter, to order something tasty.
Geri and Ray Morrison have owned The Elms restaurant for 40 years, and their son, Curt, helps run the business, too.
They serve a variety of family friendly fare – hot dogs, corn dogs, burgers, homemade soups, sundaes, cones, malts and root beer – a menu reminiscent of a 1960s drive-in. A specialty is barbecued ribs, which Ray smokes for hours.
The Morrisons took over The Elms in 1973, when it used to be known as Twin Elms. Geri said the restaurant was named after the numerous elm trees that used to grow all over Batavia, now notably absent due to Dutch Elm disease.
The restaurant, however, has persevered, not in small part to the Morrison's experience in the business.
The family owned the Dog n Suds Drive-In at the corner of Route 25 and Fabyan Parkway from 1966 to 1976. The Morrisons ran The Elms and their Dog n Suds Drive-In together for a few years, before deciding to focus all of their attention on The Elms. In 1983, they moved into their current building on Main Street, which was built right behind the original restaurant building, which no longer stands.
At The Elms, the have preserved the charm, and many of their customers, from 40 decades ago.
"We're a rarity and we know it," Geri said. "With the Dog n Suds... we were in our 20s and a lot of [our customers] were teenagers. Now they're in their 60s and they still come in."
Curt said they know a lot of their customers by name and what they're going to order before they even approach the counter.
"A lot of customers we've known for 25 years," Geri said. "They become our friends."