- Free Newsletters
- Support Us
- Manage print subscription
- Special Sections
- Log in
“All the presidents and vice presidents we’ve seen come in here, all our customers, all the employees my mom’s had over the years that became friends and family,” reminisced a …
“All the presidents and vice presidents we’ve seen come in here, all our customers, all the employees my mom’s had over the years that became friends and family,” reminisced a teary-eyed Katie Rhea, owner of the iconic restaurant Katie’s at the Airport.
“It’s just, we’ve been here for 18 years, and it’s a huge part of my life, you know? I guess it’s, like, heartbreaking, you could say.”
Katie’s, once known as Kay’s at the Airport when owned by Rhea’s mother, has long been a mainstay at Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport. So, it came as a shock to most when the County Council told Rhea on Jan. 10 that she had until the end of the month to vacate the premises.
“Yes, there was an issue of back rent,” admitted Rhea, “and they didn’t want to work with me at all. They didn’t want me to try to do anything. So, basically it was ‘No talking about it, we want you out by Feb. 1.’”
“I’ve been in the restaurant industry my whole life,” she said. “And I just think it was kind of crappy that they gave my employees two weeks to try to find a job, as well as myself, who’s never done anything else.”
Table attendant Autumn Cameron has been experiencing a lot of emotions in the past few days — sadness, disbelief, and anger. “This industry is not one where you can go out and find a job at this time of the year.”
Cameron has worked for Katie’s family ever since Kay and her brother started with Market Square Deli 34 years ago. All but one of her children had jobs at the airport restaurant. She will miss all of her “great” and “wonderful” customers.
“I have people come in here from Connecticut just to get crab cakes,” she said. “They fly in just to get crab cakes.”
“The 29th Division used to come here every three months,” added Rhea, “and I know they’re going to miss it.”
“And now they try to tell Katie that we don’t bring enough revenue to the airport.” Cameron shook her head. “That’s not true, we do.”
Rhea has heard that another restaurant is already slated to take her space, but that’s just a rumor. Whatever the truth, she feels as if, after the new County Council was elected and sworn in, Katie’s was the first item on their agenda. “I could tell when they came in their minds were made up.”
“If this is the first thing they do by going and getting elected into office,” said Cameron, “I really don’t want to see what’s going to happen to our county.”
Love and support have poured in from many people who ask, “What can we do?” And Rhea replies, “Contact the council.”
“I’m not saying they’re going to retract what they said,” Rhea admitted, “but I don’t know.”
A Cambridge native who expresses love for the community and its people, Rhea stated that she has no interest in exploring legal options. “I don’t want to make anyone a villain, because I’m not that person. Because I know I was wrong. But I just feel like I wasn’t given a fair chance.”
“I’m damn sorry she’s closing,” said George Bridges, who eats at Katie’s with his spouse, Patsy, whenever they drive from Tilghman Island to the local VA.clinic. “There’s only one place to get a skillet like that. It’s here.”
Charles McFadden, who breakfasts at the airport with friends every Thursday, expressed his sadness that Cambridge had lost another restaurant. “We’re going in the wrong direction. We need the city to get involved and provide incentives for these places, and hire an economic development specialist to maybe attract some more people.”
Rhea wants to find another location, but her search has produced nothing yet. And she’s anxious, because she relies on the restaurant’s income. “I don’t even know what I’ll do if I can’t find another place.”