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Son of Rudy’s Diner owner committed to carry on legacy

Photos by Tom Rivers: Brody Hoffmeister gives his grandmother Debbie Russo a hug at Rudy’s Diner in Medina. The family is grieving the loss of Brody’s mother and Debbie’s daughter, Kelly Duffield. She died from cancer on Oct. 21 and had worked at Rudy’s since it opened in May 1988.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2019 at 10:18 am

Brody Hoffmeister is 3rd generation to run popular spot in Medina

Provided photo: Brody Hoffmeister and his mother Kelly Duffield are shown together in this recent photo.

MEDINA – One of Medina’s most popular and enduring restaurants lost its leader last month with the death of Kelly Duffield. She was 49 when she passed away on Oct. 21, after a 2 ½ year battle with cancer.

Duffield has been a big part of Rudy’s since her parents, Debbie and Joseph Russo, opened it on May 10, 1988.

Duffield’s son Brody Hoffmeister is now running Rudy’s with help from his grandmother Debbie, as well as a dedicated group of 20-25 employees.

Hoffmeister, 25, thanked the community for its outpouring of love and support with the loss of his mother. He has received more than 500 messages on Facebook, and many cards and flowers.

“I didn’t realize how the community would be rallying behind us,” he said at Rudy’s last week just after the lunch rush. “I didn’t realize how many people my mom knew.”

His mother worked 12-15 hours or more at the diner, which opens at 7 in the morning and closes at 9 at night. She thought of the “Mojo Burger” challenge, where people can write their names on the wall in the dining room if they can eat the 1-pound burger. There are hundreds of names on the wall.

His mother led the employees, ordered food and tracked inventory, and enjoyed banter with the customers. She owned Rudy’s since 2006.

“My mom made it look easy,” Hoffmeister said. “I didn’t realize how hard this is to do.”

Hoffmeister has grown up at the diner. As a teen-ager he delivered meals to customers in the downtown, and others who might be sick or homebound. Then he washed dishes before moving up to become a cook.

Brody Hoffmeister is pictured with some of the staff in the dining room at Rudy’s. From left include Jennifer McCauley, Dawn VanLeuven and Ellie Kage.

Hoffmeister likes being in the kitchen. The past few years he has been a cook, and has also worked to implement some new technology, including computers for the ordering. Waitresses enter the orders in on a hand-held computer pad, and those orders then appear in monitors in the kitchen. On-line orders also appear on the monitors.

Hoffmeister said Rudy’s will make other improvements, but it won’t change its friendly atmosphere with classic comfort food.

“We aren’t going to the change the quality that makes us successful but we need to modernize so we can go another 30 years,” Hoffmeister said.

Brody Hoffmeister checks an order on the screen in the kitchen. Waitresses take orders on computers, and those orders them show up in the kitchen, which gets the orders to the cooks faster and more accurately. Online orders also show up on the monitors in the kitchen. Hoffmeister also said the new computer system helps him to better track inventory.

His grandparents, Debbie and Joe, opened Rudy’s on May 10, 1988. Kelly was a senior in high school when Rudy’s started. Rudy was Joe’s nickname from when he was a cook in the Vietnam War.

Joe Russo took on a big project of remodelling Rudy’s after a fire badly damaged a dairy business that was there. Joe gave it a distinctive look. It continues today with a 1950s feel inside with Leave It To Beaver posters. Joe and Debbie treasured their customers and there is a large portrait of one customer near the front entrance.

“There is just something about this building,” Hoffmeister said. “It’s the memories of the people here, including the people who aren’t here anymore. There are guys who come in here every day at the same time to meet up.”

Mr. Russo passed away on June 3.

Ellie Kage, a long-time waitress at Rudy’s, takes two lunches – beef on weck with onion rings and hamburger stroganoff, to customers last week. Kage was with Rudy’s when it opened and came back 2 ½ years ago when she moved back to the area.

Debbie Russo has been helping her grandson at Rudy’s, including with some of the ordering.

“He’s been doing a good job,” she said about Hoffmeister.

She also thanked the community for its support.

“That’s what keeps us here – the people,” she said. “I come here everyday and I love it. It’s home.”

Rudy’s Diner has been a mainstay with its red awnings on West Center Street.

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