Future of popular Craig restaurant uncertain


A March 6 accident that claimed the lives of two Craig residents may have taken more from the community than people who spent their entire lives in Moffat County it took a meeting and gathering place many thought of as special TKs Truck Stop Cafe.

One man said, "That place meant the world to me. When I walked through that door, I knew I was a special person."

The restaurant has been closed since the deaths of owners Tracy Zimmerman, 47, and her daughter Kelly Stauffer, 28. The two were killed in a traffic accident outside Rifle, Colo.

There is no indication when the restaurant will reopen.

Tracy's mother, Dalpha Zimmerman, said things are in limbo. Despite her urgings, neither Tracy nor Kelly had a will. Tracy had intended to leave everything to Kelly, Zimmerman said.

Attorney for the family, Mike Lassota, is working through the legalities of the inheritance, but said it's still too early to tell.

"We're exploring every possible option and haven't found the right one, yet," he said.

Dalpha Zimmerman isn't sure whether she or Stauffer's two young children will inherent the business.

The building where the Truck Stop is located is rented and Tracy's lease grandfathered her in for several code exemptions a new owner may not be entitled to. Meeting those codes would require expensive renovation a new owner may not want to undertake.

But many community members are hoping the restaurant will reopen, knowing it won't be the same.

"Many people hope it will go on," Craig resident Paula Baldwin said. "But it won't have the same flavor without those two girls. You always felt so accepted."

The restaurant and its owners touched Baldwin's life so much she wrote a poem about them.

"The chains can't copy it and money can't buy it. The welcome was real and the warmth came non-profit. It was a gift of generosity, sincerity and love, caring more for whom they served than for profit," the poem reads.

Located on the corner of Victory Way and Ranney Street, the Truck Stop is an unassuming building many don't recognize as one of the most popular restaurants in Craig. It has been referred to as a "working man's restaurant," because of its large portions, low prices and never-empty coffee cups. It was a place where people say they always fit, no matter how they were dressed or what they did for a living.

The doors opened early to cater to farmers, ranchers and old-timers. Later, women in dresses and men clad in suits crowded in for lunch.

It was a place, many said, where they always felt welcome.

Baldwin said she once witnessed Kelly talking to a man who was very hungry and without money.

"Quietly and with such dignity, Kelly said, 'I'm sure my mother would want me to feed you,'" Baldwin said.

Floyd Butts is one of many who made a trip to the Truck Stop part of his everyday routine. He called the restaurant his office and when leaving home, he said he was going to "do business."

When he became ill, Tracy sent him ice and a slice of pie each day.

It was a kind of service people say other restaurants don't give, but was commonplace at the Truck Stop.

Dick Wilson has lived in Craig for 83 years and was here to see the building constructed. He saw the turnover in ownership throughout the years. He was another person who went to the Truck Stop just about every day.

"The people who ran it were very nice. Always accommodating," he said. "There's a lot of nice people who go there. It wasn't a rough crowd, just nice, polite people you could sit and visit with. You really need a place like that here."

Fifteen people lost jobs when the restaurant closed, all waiting for some resolution.

Many people have come forward offering to run the restaurant, but Zimmerman said she will wait to see what the future holds. She would like to see it open, but worries people's expectations may be too high.

"It will never be the same without Tracy and Kelly," she said.

Some think the emphasis in the restaurant is misplaced.

"I think it was a bigger loss losing Tracy and Kelly than the restaurant," Craig resident Jackie Chase said.

Baldwin's poem states:

"Tracy and Kelly were knit together by love,

Freely they gave faithfulness, grace and respect.

They will be missed more than they might have thought,

They fed more than our bodies, the fed our hearts."

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