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Classic Murray restaurant closes its doors after decades of service

Hungry Bear sign
Zacharie Lamb /// WKMS

After more than 50 years in Murray, a family-owned restaurant has closed its doors.

Since 1970, two things have been certain in Murray: the sun will rise, and no one does home-cooked breakfast like Hungry Bear.

A sign outside the building, where the business moved to in 1988, shows the passage of time for the restaurant with some of the letters facing the corner of Main St. and North 13th St. having fallen off. Diners would sit surrounded by old school Murray decor as a game room full of arcade games blinks and beeps off to the side.

Todd Swain has shared ownership of the restaurant with his brothers Steve and Tim since they inherited the business from their parents, Ronald and Elizabeth Swain. Todd treasures his time spent in the restaurant and the community’s attachment to the business his father and mother started.

Todd said it’s humbling to hear stories from customers about how the restaurant has been a part of local life for the past five decades.

“It means a lot to us that we’ve been a part of the Murray community for 52 years. We’ve seen a lot of history. We’ve had great customers and great employees,” Swain told WKMS. “It’s fun seeing the families come in, seeing them get married and then bringing their kids in, and then them bringing their grandkids in. It’s came full circle for some people.”

Hungry Bear diner
Zacharie Lamb /// WKMS

Hungry Bear’s last day was Sunday, June 26. Sawin said that, ever since word got out about the imminent closing, business has picked up. He said the weekends are normally a packed house but now the weekdays have become just as hectic as locals try to savour the flavor of the last few meals Hungry Bear has to serve.

Don Walker, holding his regular cup of coffee, said he was motivated to come back to Hungry Bear in its last week for old time’s sake.

“When I was younger and running around town, I’d come in and play video games, pool, eat and then just continued to eat [here] as I got older,” Walker said.

Hungry Bear arcade
Zacharie Lamb /// WKMS

Another patron said she had come to eat a hand few times recently and felt as if she was a part of one big family. She said the atmosphere was always welcoming and that part of her didn’t want the good times to end.

Todd said the reason behind the closing has nothing to do with business and everything to do with wanting to move on to new experiences and put a close to this chapter of his family’s legacy.

“We would like to experience life, you know, differently. Because, when you're in the restaurant business, you have no weekends. And then, if you want a vacation if you’re an independent, you basically have to close down,” Todd said, “We’ve had our fill, and it’s time to move on.”

Hungry Bear has taken seasonal breaks in the past, but, Swain said this time would be different. The Swains plan to liquidate the business and sell off most of the restaurant’s assets.. The Hungry Bear business itself will stay in the family corporation.

“It’s been very emotional here at the end with everyone wanting to tell their stories,” Todd said “How some people met here, or had their first date here, and now they have grandchildren, been married, ... It means a lot to us.”

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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