Logsdon’s: Famed SP Airport restaurant closed, but memories remain
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: February 13, 2013
Famed for its menu - from chicken fried steak and eggs to cheeseburgers that aviators joked cost $200 for fuel to fly in to enjoy to the elegant sirloin with peppercorn sauce - for decades ambiance also had a seat at the tables of the famed Logsdon’s Restaurant at Santa Paula Airport.
With its front row view of the airport and its often eclectic aircraft, there was always a sense of something happening at Logsdon’s, a popular venue for meetings and special events as well as for diners who knew the restaurant’s acoustics were perfect for private chats. But on Sunday, February 3, sadness, an item no one wanted to order, was also on Logsdon’s menu as the clock ticked off the hours to the restaurant’s closure.
Gina Picazo, a server for 18 years, was having trouble holding back the tears as she visited with customers. Picazo has been with the restaurant for 18 years: “It’s been so hard,” with an almost weeklong procession of those who heard the eatery was closing coming in to say goodbye and offer hugs. “It’s awful... I’ve been here so long and I just love everyone so much, the Logsdon’s family, our friends, just everything I’m going to miss so much,” said the well-liked Picazo, already getting job nibbles from other eateries.
Trish and Bill Greene are regulars, although Trish said the couple usually would eat elsewhere on the First Sunday of the Month to avoid the crowd that packed Logsdon’s during the airport’s open house. But the Greenes were there for this First Sunday, looking glum although making sure they had smiles and hugs for favorite servers in between chatting with other patrons bemoaning the closure. “It’s very, very sad” for the airport, the community and especially, said Trish, the staff.
The restaurant was briefly closed last year as potential buyers started renovations, but after several months of operation the spacious Logsdon’s - with its large banquet room, bar and seating area, breakfast and dining rooms as well as some outdoor over the runway seating - reverted back to the family. Shirley Logsdon, the matriarch of the family, is positive a buyer will come forth soon.
Logsdon’s opened at the airport in 1990; the family built the restaurant after operating Logsdon’s Peppermill on Peck Road and before that the Old Cookery in Ventura. Said Shirley, “The family has been running restaurants in Ventura County for 35 years,” and in Santa Paula since about 1980 when Logsdon’s Peppermill opened.
Shirley credits her daughter Toni and her husband Bob Wagner, a chef, for setting the restaurant path for the whole family. “Toni and Bob have always been very involved,” said Shirley, who noted Bob studied under a famed chef in Ojai and the couple met when they worked at the same restaurant.
Shirley and her late husband Gawain built and opened Logsdon’s at the airport in 1990, a business that was launched with a huge community open house. The couple had always been active with the community: “Gawain did a lot of work for the Chamber of Commerce and worked very closely with Howard Bolton,” who served as the business organization’s president.
“We did a lot of benefits for the Chamber,” donating thousands of dollars to the organization over the years, support they had also offered Doris Murphy when she headed an area merchants’ association. But it was only six months after Logsdon’s opened that Gawain suffered a stroke and then other health complications set in; he passed away in 1994.
Stanton Logsdon, Shirley and Gawain’s son, was also active with the restaurant. He did the interior design of the bar, encouraged famed artist Matt Jeffries to paint and display his aviation oil paintings throughout the restaurant, and was the entertainment manager. Stanton passed away unexpectedly in 1998.
The Wagners bought Logsdon’s in 2003. “Bob and Toni figured out they have 75 years combined years in the business,” and continued the family tradition with the help of their daughter Ashley “and her kids,” fourth generation restaurateurs.
Like all others, the restaurant took a hit during the Great Recession; but even with the economy improving, a desire to retire caused the family to decide to sell. And some health concerns among family members led to the closure.
“We certainly would like to thank all our customers for all the years” they frequented Logsdon’s, which Shirley said is more than a restaurant. “It is very important to Santa Paula, very important to the airport and the general public,” who for decades knew they could rely on Logsdon’s for weddings, business meetings and charitable functions.
“We’ve had people fall in love here,” and Shirley said Logsdon’s has served as a destination for pilots who would fly to Santa Paula for their menu favorites. “It’s been a real asset to the city,” and Shirley - ever loyal to Santa Paula and its well-being - has been “referring our customers to other area businesses.”
She takes pride in the staff, noting many found great success: “We had so many that became business leaders, police officers, even a mayor” - Margaret Ely Davidson, who had worked at Logsdon’s years ago.
“It can be a good business for young people, a stepping stone,” as in the case of former server Judy Phelps, who just moved a few feet west. “Judy,” said Shirley, “met Clay Phelps here,” and she wound up marrying her customer “and she became a pilot and famous instructor”; the couple owns CP Aviation.
Many of the young staff who moved on had children of their own who came to work for Logsdon’s.
Shirley said she has “so many memories” of friends and employees, locals and visiting aviators. And those included celebrities who flew in such as Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Cliff Robertson (who had a hanger), Tom Cruise, Kirk Douglas, Kirk Russell, Barbra Streisand and husband James Brolin, among others who enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I think they liked Logsdon’s because people didn’t bother them, they could come in and be themselves,” which included, said Shirley being “at all times very kind and thoughtful to our servers and helpers here,” unlike other ruckus-raising celebrities people are used to hearing about.
Steve McQueen had been a customer at the Peppermill, as was Kirk Douglas, whose writing partner lived in Fillmore. After his meal Douglas, said Shirley, would always order a banana cream pie to go.
“We do care about the airport, we’ve been here a long time,” said Shirley, who, when she would ride her bike on the edge of the runway 70 years ago, “never thought I’d have a restaurant down here!” The restaurant “remains for sale and we’re hoping someone buys it soon; it’s very important to us of course, but also to the airport and the community.”
In the final days generations of the family took care of the restaurant and its closure, including Shirley’s grandson Gawain Wagner and his wife Ali and granddaughter Ashley Wagner - “She worked here for years and was a wonderful asset,” said Shirley - and her husband. At the end, as it was from the very beginning, said Shirley, “Logsdon’s really was a family affair.”