One of Groton’s best-loved establishments, the iconic Casper’s Diner, 118 Main St., has been a fixture in the village for decades, but its current owner, Kevin Griffin, has been running it successfully for about four years now.
Griffin has not only remained true to the importance of the traditions and nuances of what Casper’s has come to be and mean to its faithful clientele, but he has also brought innovative ideas into the mix such as free Wi-Fi and the acceptance of credit cards for payment.
No stranger to the restaurant business, Griffin grew up in Danby and graduated from Ithaca High School with the aspiration to become a gym teacher, so he headed off to major in sports recreation at Herkimer Community College. While there, he began cooking in a local family-owned restaurant to help pay his way through college.
Extenuating life circumstances caused Griffin to abandon his college pursuits and return home to Danby to help his family there. His need for employment coincided quite fortuitously with the opening of an Applebee’s in Lansing. He was hired to work the grill there, and before long, was promoted to become Applebee’s regional trainer. During this time, Griffin realized his real passions are food service and customer service.
After 11 years with Applebee’s, Griffin found his true niche at Joe’s Restaurant in Ithaca. He started out cooking in the kitchen and expanded to managing the kitchen and catering service. Griffin eventually purchased Casper’s because he knew he needed to own his own business in order to truly feed his passion.Fast-forward to today; Griffin now resides in Groton and has become so much more to the community than simply the guy who owns Casper’s. From the beginning, he had the concept of making sure the diner served its patrons quality food at an affordable price, but he also wanted to make sure he found a way to make sure it had a real community focus.
Griffin has most assuredly found many ways to do just that. Casper’s is not only a place for great food and good conversation; it has been fulfilling Griffin’s desire to serve his community through some amazing ways.
Casper’s has turned into a second home for the Groton High School varsity football team. Born from the coaches’ desire to find a place to hold team meals during the football season, Griffin opened Casper’s to the team one evening a week and served them with pasta while they listened to motivational speakers while they ate and built team bonds. Prior to that, Griffin provided lunch and Gatorade to the team for its first seven days of pre-season practice and a dinner for the modified football team at no cost to them.
During Groton Olde Home Days, Griffin subsidized a chicken barbecue as a fundraiser for the team and a spaghetti dinner for the Groton varsity cheerleaders. The cheerleaders earned enough to pay for all their uniforms. Casper’s also provided lunch for children at the Groton Public Library for a week during the summer and every day during the winter break.
Teaming up with Christine Brown Personius of Doug’s Trash Removal, Griffin has also found a way to provide meals for community members in need, as well as gratis meals for Groton police and fire and ambulance workers on duty.Griffin learned a legacy of philanthropy from his parents, primarily his mother, Nancy Griffin, who to this day still sends clothing and school supplies to children in Jamaica. Nancy, along with long-time employee, Danean Fatcheric, make all the desserts, muffins, and cookies that are served at Casper’s from scratch. Another familiar guy around town, Al Perrault, makes all the soups.Beginning with this new year, Casper’s will be sporting a new menu with most of the local favorites still intact, but with some great new additions such as meatloaf and chicken parmesan dinners, open-faced turkey, roast beef, and meatloaf sandwiches, and a liver, bacon, and onion meal. The items Griffin seemed most excited about are the new featured specialty burgers, mixed and hand-formed fresh per order with beef that is brought in fresh daily, and special seasonal salads that will be offered.
Casper’s will be closed for a well-deserved vacation from Jan. 7 through 13, but regular hours are 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. The diner is closed for regular business on Monday.
Griffin would like everyone in Groton to know that Casper’s is always there for you. If there is a fundraiser or other philanthropic cause that he can help with, call Casper’s at (607) 220-8347, find Casper’s Diner on Facebook, or just stop on by and chat with him.
“One way or another, it comes back to me,” said Griffin. “When I die, I can’t take it with me.”
Happy New Year!I would be remiss if I did not begin the first column of 2019 without wishing each of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. As I look back on the year, I recall so many different things we have accomplished as a community. Each of us has contributed to and made our mark on the history of Groton just because we are a part of it. We all matter, and I would just like you all to know that I sincerely appreciate your readership and wish you the very best year ahead.
Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-227-4922.
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