For nearly 20 years, Jeff Seidenstein sat behind the counter and rang up diners on their way out of Courtney’s Restaurant.
He’s owned the Six Forks Road breakfast and lunch spot for two of the three decades it’s been open, closing only two days a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Seidenstein was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago, said John Harris, a host at the restaurant, and has been too weak to run Courtney’s while undergoing treatment.
“It’s failed since he’s been gone, his presence was kind of vital,” Harris said. “He was there open to close every day.”
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Courtney’s was expected to close Aug. 13 unless a group of employees can raise the funds to buy it. Harris is leading the effort and started a GoFundMe page on Tuesday, aiming to raise $90,000 to buy the restaurant from Seidenstein.
He calls it a long shot. But tragedy is forcing the restaurant’s hand, he said, and he wants to see the doors stay open.
“We want to raise enough money to purchase the business from him and distribute the ownership equally among the employees,” Harris said. “There’s a lot of longtime employees here – a cook that’s been here 18 years, a waitress who’s been here 11 years. The owner is just a great guy, he’s an amazing person to work for. It’s a tragedy that this kind of thing has happened to him.”
Like many diners, Courtney’s is a place of constants and routines, a morning fixture for some in Raleigh where an order of “the usual” means something. Serving hash with runny eggs, plates of waffles, bowls of eggs Benedict covered in bright yellow Hollandaise, the restaurant specializes in the kinds of breakfasts best followed by a nap.
Harris said he met Seidenstein in a poker game five years ago and has worked at Courtney’s for the past two.
“We’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of people ask, ‘What happened to the guy behind the counter?’ ” Harris said. “Without him and his oversight, you start to see all the little things that you thought were little, but really aren’t.”
If the employees bought Courtney’s, Harris said there likely would be some changes, starting with renovations to the building.
“We’re all going to be equal in the ownership of the business, but want to save and modernize Courtney’s,” Harris said.
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson