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Morning is glorious again as restaurant reopens

An inhospitable climate for restaurants couldn’t kill Ashland’s Morning Glory restaurant.

The beloved eatery was resurrected Feb. 4 after a three-month closure mostly spent negotiating its purchase by longtime Ashland residents Dave and Marge Bernard. The couple’s deep roots in the community and previous ownership of Darex couldn’t completely prepare them for the demands of operating a popular restaurant. But the Bernards say they’re the “right” people at the “right time.”

“We bought this knowing it’s gonna be a long road,” says Dave, adding that Morning Glory may even lose money initially, but that he and Marge are confident they can sustain the business.

“We look at this restaurant as kind of being a landmark,” says Dave. “It isn’t broken, so we’re not gonna fix it.”

Offering a “slimmed down” version of “crowd favorites,” Morning Glory quietly opened for takeout with online ordering for pickup or delivery. Hours remain 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but the Bernards are confining service to Thursday through Sunday for the time being. Once pandemic restrictions on restaurants ease, they’ll reevaluate the model, including whether it’s viable to resume on-site dining.

“It’s been heartbreaking for me,” says Morning Glory founder and former owner Patty Groth of the pandemic’s effects and her decision to close. “It basically destroyed my business.”

Popularity had pushed Morning Glory almost to its limits before the coronavirus hit. Although Groth had demurred for years that creating outdoor dining wasn’t within the kitchen’s capacity to serve, social distancing mandates compelled her to move about half of Morning Glory’s 70 seats outside last May. But none of the tables were covered or heated, and when colder weather hit last fall, Groth came to terms with finally closing the restaurant she had operated for 23 years.

Hearing of Groth’s intended Nov. 1 closure scarcely a week after its announcement on social media, the Bernards made an offer of approximately $650,000, which purchased the building at 1149 Siskiyou Blvd., plus business assets. Groth had listed Morning Glory off and on since 2013 for $799,000, but the pandemic eroded its value, she says. The Bernards “have the means,” says Groth, to enter the industry as many food service ventures are foundering.

“This restaurant just seems to get more and more popular over the years,” says Dave. “And the rest depends on COVID.”

Because Morning Glory’s “lines were too long” prior to the pandemic, the Bernards only ate there a couple of times per year, although they loved the food, says Marge. And the couple had an affection for Groth’s personal story as a single mom who opened Morning Glory to coincide with her son’s school day. Their son, Chad, attended school with Groth’s son, Adrian, who took his kindergarten class on a field trip to make gingerbread pancakes at Morning Glory, the Bernards recall.

Chad Bernard, 28, now owns and operates a creperie in Portland. His struggles to streamline service during the pandemic summoned his parents’ assistance, the Bernards say. Helping at Frog & Snail over the past year gave the Bernards their first taste of what it takes to feed customers.

The Bernards eagerly hired back three longtime cooks to produce the omelets, scrambles, waffles and more that enjoy such a following at a Morning Glory. And although the menu is a bit smaller, tailored primarily to takeout, the Bernards intend to restore nearly all of Groth’s specialties over the coming year.

The chef has worked alongside the Bernards as they learn Morning Glory’s rhythm and navigate a new point-of-sale system. But Groth says she’s ready to leave restaurants and cooking behind, despite recently selling out of her cookbook “Breakfast at Morning Glory: Recipes, Mishaps and Adventures From the Little Blue House,” priced at $25.

“I would always end up back in the kitchen,” she says, explaining that at 61, she can’t physically keep pace with such a demanding profession. Morning Glory was Groth’s second restaurant since she graduated in 1984 from Culinary Institute of America and eventually opened McCully House in Jacksonville.

The Oregon Coast is Groth’s next destination, where she says she purchased waterfront property in Lakeside and intends to help manage Ringo’s Lakeside Marina on Tenmile Lake. Visiting the Coos Bay area over the past couple of years, Groth says she fell in love with its beaches and dunes and even found some culinary delights at Clausen Oysters and the Pancake Mill restaurant.

Morning Glory will endure much as Groth left it, say the Bernards, pledging to keep the restaurant’s look, including its fantastical murals depicting fairies, flying fish, a hen nesting atop a stack of pancakes and the restaurant’s namesake flower, painted by Suzanne Etienne. Both retired — Marge from a career as an emergency department nurse at the former Ashland Community Hospital — the couple weren’t “ready to hang it up.”

“I like to golf, but not that much,” says Dave, 64.

But nor do they intend to be full-time employees, says Marge, 62, once Morning Glory is poised to flourish again.

“We’ve heard everything,” she says, “from ‘Are you nuts?’ to ‘That’s so great — another adventure you get to have!”

See www.morninggloryashland.com for updates and order online. Or call 541-482-2017.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Marty Dunn cooks breakfast orders Friday morning for pickup at the recently reopened Morning Glory in Ashland. (Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings)