Business

First it was Smoky Davis. Now this landmark restaurant may be forced off State Street

Yes, Ada County, traffic is getting more congested on your commute

Growth in the Treasure Valley since the economic recession of a decade ago has put a strain on existing traffic arteries in Ada County.
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Growth in the Treasure Valley since the economic recession of a decade ago has put a strain on existing traffic arteries in Ada County.

Merritt’s Family Restaurant, famously known as “Home of the Scones” for more than four decades, might be forced to move.

The planned widening of State Street by the Ada County Highway District would shave off the parking area in front of the restaurant and make it impossible to keep operating, the owners of the restaurant said in a Facebook post over the weekend.

“The plans (we’ve) seen put the new road and sidewalks right at our front door,” the post said.

The highway district is looking to eventually widen State Street to six lanes west of North Pierce Park Lane.

Merritt’s owner George Merritt said he could lose 23 of his 38 parking spots due to the widening. Plans call for a new sidewalk to be 6 feet from the back of the parking spaces, which wouldn’t leave enough room for cars to pull in and out, he said.

“If I have a 65-seat restaurant and there’s only 15 parking spots, that isn’t going to work,” Merritt, 58, said by telephone.

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Plans for the widening of State Street call for removing several feet of the front parking area at Merritt’s Country Cafe. It would not leave enough room for cars to pull in and out, owner George Merritt said. He’s exploring options, including paving over the Boise Valley Canal that runs behind the restaurant to create added parking. Provided by the Ada County Highway District

He said there might be a way to keep the restaurant there, though. The Boise Valley Canal runs along the back side of the property. Canal officials have told him he could pave over the canal and create additional parking, Merritt said.

Merritt also owns a shop next to the restaurant that he uses for storage. And there’s an apartment behind the shop. Those could be torn down or moved to create more room for parking.

“I think it will all work out, but it’s going to cost me money to do it,” he said.

A spokeswoman for ACHD could not be reached for comment.

In the Facebook post, the owners said they were looking for another location.

“So far, everything out there is for lease and would need a lot of work to fit our needs,” Merritt’s said. “No place will ever have the history and character of this old truck stop!”

The post says Merritt’s would consider staying at 6630 W. State St. if they could reconfigure the property to provide additional parking.

Lester Merritt opened the restaurant in 1975 at the old Yatesville truck stop, which had operated since 1928 and had a small cafe. Merritt’s wife, Shar (pronounced “share”), developed scones as a cheap alternative to bread, George Merritt said.

The restaurant appears in the Idaho Statesman book “150 Boise Icons.” “The classic Merritt’s scone is a flying saucer of warm dough with an orb of melting honey butter — more Indian fry bread than British tea confection,” the introduction waxed.

“We will remain positive about this and continue to do our best to provide our customers with a great dining experience,” Merritt’s said in its post.

The Facebook announcement brought an outpouring of support for Merritt’s and lamented the pains caused by Boise’s growth.

Kuna resident Heidi Benson wrote that Merritt’s has been a favorite of her family for years.

“Thank you for always having amazing food in a great environment,” she wrote.

Margaret Holst said she was saddened to see the worsening traffic situation affect another family business.

“Good luck to you on finding a new location or, hopefully, keeping the one you’re at now!” Holst wrote.

Boise resident Mike Irish asked a question that is likely on the minds of many Treasure Valley residents.

“Where will we get sconed if Merritt’s moves?” he wrote.

Last year, ACHD demolished the Smoky Davis meats building farther east on State Street. That building was razed to make room for the intersection expansion along State Street, Veterans Memorial Parkway and 36th Street.

Owner Gary Davis, grandson of Smoky Davis founder Del Davis, is suing in an attempt to force the highway district to pay to rebuild the business on the property that was left.

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Breakfasts at Merritt’s Country Cafe come with a plate-sized scone, served with honey butter. Statesman file photo

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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