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Spot that housed Boise’s oldest eatery, smokers’ haven has sat vacant for years. Until now

The owner of the building that formerly housed the Sav-On Cafe and Baldwin Lock & Key at 16th and Main streets in Boise plans to renovate the entire space for a restaurant.
The owner of the building that formerly housed the Sav-On Cafe and Baldwin Lock & Key at 16th and Main streets in Boise plans to renovate the entire space for a restaurant. jsowell@idahostatesman.com

Although the Sav-on Cafe shut its doors seven years ago, three signs on the building remained, signaling perhaps a wishful hope that a longtime Boise institution on Downtown’s western edge would one day return.

This week, Bill Snyder, owner of the building at 102 S. 16th St., applied to the city to renovate the building for a new restaurant there. It will occupy the space of the Sav-on and an adjoining space that formerly housed Baldwin Lock & Key.

Snyder did not immediately return a phone call Friday, but his application to Boise Planning and Development Services said he plans interior and exterior improvements. The combined space has 3,475 square feet.

When it closed, the Sav-on was the longest continually operating restaurant in Boise. It was known for plain food that included meatloaf and chicken-fried steak.

The restaurant was listed in a 1948 city directory as the Park N’ Cafe, according to a history submitted with the application. By 1950, the property contained the Sav-on Drug Store & Cafe.

While the cafe remained throughout the years, other businesses, including Sound Town Stereo & TV and Bonded Police ADT Security Services, occupied the north section of the building. Baldwin Lock & Key, the most recent occupant, moved to Garden City earlier this year.

The days for the old Sav-on Cafe became numbered after the state outlawed smoking in restaurants. Then-owner Clancy McCool got around the ban by turning the diner into a private smokers’ club. Which just happened to serve food, same as it always had.

It operated that way for seven years before McCool shut the cafe down in 2011.

“It wasn’t just a cafe or smoker’s club,” longtime Idaho Statesman columnist Tim Woodward lamented then. “It was a home for its fiercely loyal customers, a refuge of sorts and a local institution for the better part of a century.”

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell.
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