Business

Addi’s Diner: Labor of Love


BOBBY STEVENS / THE CHRONICLE
Farnsworth loves getting to watch the sun come up over Springfield in the mornings. It gives her the peace and quiet she needs before the diner fills up with guests. That’s her secret, she says.

With Yankees hats tacked to the ceiling, license plates covering the walls, and striking checkerboard floors, Addi’s diner guarantees a colorful and lively breakfast and lunch experience. 

The charming 1950s-themed diner sits on the corner of S. 2nd and S. A streets in downtown Springfield. You’ve probably driven past it a thousand times – and eaten there just as many. 

Owner Addi Farnsworth opened the diner in 2006 when she was only 22 years old. Farnsworth grew up in Drain, where her parents owned a Mexican-American- style restaurant. With the experience she had there and a drive as big as her pancakes, she took the leap and started her own business. 

“I had no education and not a clue what I was doing. I just did it,” said Farnsworth, whose diner was named 2021 Business of the Year by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce during its banquet earlier this year. 

Farnsworth’s concept for the diner was to create a family-friendly environment where neighbors and residents can have a meal together. “People come here to have fun and I want to come in and have a party,” she said. 

When Farnsworth bought the diner, it needed a bit of sprucing up, she said. The walls were a drab brown color and the floors were grimey. Farnsworth wanted to add a little – actually, make that a lot – of color. In only three days, the walls were painted with blue, black and red stripes and the floors were replaced. “I don’t mess around,” Farnsworth said. 

Like many other restaurants, the Covid pandemic presented new and unexpected challenges, forcing Farnsworth to adjust her business model. 

The restaurant offered only to-go orders when indoor dining was restricted, and later offered indoor dining options when it was allowed. 

Through the entire pandemic, Addi’s didn’t close for one day.

“A lot of my people come in early in the morning and are essential workers, nurses or police officers – very important people to our community. I wanted to make sure that I was ready for them. Some days were slow. Some days were busy. Overall, I came out stronger and wiser and learned valuable lessons,” Farnsworth said.

Addi’s has built a large pool of regular customers over the years that carried Farnsworth through the pandemic. She found the past two years humbling, she said, and noted how customers supported her by ordering breakfast to-go, which is atypical in the to-go food world.

LARISSA BORK / THE CHRONICLE
Because of Farnsworth’s unique touches, like the coffee mug wall, Addi’s diner feels like home to customers. These mugs are provided by regulars, who get to drink from their favorite mug whenever they come in. For customers who have passed on, Addi’s diner has a way to remember them. 

 “Our regulars really helped us. For people to make sure they were thinking of us, the breakfast spot too, was probably the most humbling thing of my entire life. People would come in and say ‘Just hang on, come on, you can do it.’ It was amazing … We meant a lot to people that I didn’t even realize that we did,” Farnsworth said. 

During the pandemic, Farnsworth also tried to fill gaps for customers who were missing out on favorite foods on the road. She said people lamented missing out on the iconic churros at Disneyland, for instance. So she decided to make a churro waffle as a way to try to make up for the lost time. 

Farnsworth also bought premium to-go boxes, to make customers feel like they were still getting a special treat, even if the atmosphere wasn’t the same. 

Farnsworth said she made an effort to build relationships with customers and make her food affordable for families during the pandemic. Her tenacity was part of the reason the chamber named her business of the year. “It was quite the honor. I did not expect that at all,” Farnsworth said. The Chamber composed a video featuring the restaurant, which she said was a thrill to watch.

LARISSA BORK / THE CHRONICLE
Addi’s is full of eclectic trinkets, many of which customers will bring in to add to the homey feel.

As a resident of Cottage Grove, Farnsworth commutes every day to Springfield. She likes the drive because it gives her time to “get my wheels going for all the things I need to do,” she said. 

With Addi’s opening at 4 a.m., Farnsworth gets up at 1 a.m. and arrives at the diner close to 3 a.m., depending on how many “taters” she has to prepare, she said. 

Addi preps close to 250 pounds of potatoes every day, boiling them and peeling them by hand. “It’s very labor intensive,” she laughed.

Farnsworth attributes her drive to go above and beyond to her mom. 

“My mom was a restaurant owner for 23 years. She is the hardest-working woman ever. I think I  was maybe born with that work-hard gene. She taught me well.”

About five years into owning the restaurant, Farnsworth went through a divorce and had a mortgage and a new restaurant to run by herself.

“I had to just put my nose down and grind,” she said. “I had to show up every day, set the emotions aside and do what had to be done. It’s paid off. I would say it’s taught me lots of lessons … Pray more and worry less. You can worry yourself to death. Just have faith that it will all work out. That’s what I did.”

In her spare time, when she is not prepping potatoes or running the dining area by herself, Fransworth likes to watch baseball and go to thrift stores with her husband, who she has been married to for three years. 

Her favorite baseball team is the Atlanta Braves, and gives Yankee fans a hard time with everything she can get when they come into the diner. “You come here. This is my house” Farnsworth said with a chuckle.