Home / Loris / Family, friends donate to GoFundMe for local restaurant, Ernie’s Diner
Ernie’s Hometown Diner sign is well known in Loris.

Family, friends donate to GoFundMe for local restaurant, Ernie’s Diner

By Annie Rigby

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused heartache for many local businesses in Loris. One business affected is Ernie’s Diner, also known as Sunshine Pancake House, owned and operated by Ernie Ross. When the pandemic began Ross stated he was open for take-out orders only.He said, “If a local student brings their school identification card, we will give them a free breakfast.” No other restaurant offered a free meal to students in the Loris area.

Sadly Ross had to close the diner due to the lack of customers calling in orders or visiting the drive-thru window to order a hot southern cooked meal. This could not have come at a more inopportune time as he and his wife, Marjorie, had scheduled the grand opening of their second restaurant in Little River. Ross said, “I do not know what we are going to do, this has hit us hard and I’m not sure we can recover from this epidemic of the coronavirus.”

Ross is not just a business owner; he loves the people of Loris and enjoys chatting with the patrons who enjoy hearing his stories and his kind personality. Ross has a genuine and caring heart for the community which shows when he opens his diner for fundraisers for people who are unable to keep up with the bills due to a life or death illness. He prepared and sold plates of spaghetti, salad, bread and tea or coffee at a reasonable price to raise money to help Sheri Rabon who was diagnosed with cancer. At the fundraiser donated items were auctioned to the highest bidder. All proceeds went to Rabon’s medical expenses. This is just one of the many fundraisers Ross has closed his diner to hold a dinner and auction. He allowed The Recovery Ranch to have their Valentine’s steak dinner fundraiser to help with purchasing building supplies to repair the old barn, feed for the horses, goats, chickens, donkey and calves to become more self-reliant in serving recovering addicts to alcohol and drugs (both legal prescription and illegal). Each Thanksgiving the Open Hearts Community Outreach program, not for profit organization, provides the turkeys to be cooked, church members bring the side dishes to feed the community. Ross allows the use of his diner, his equipment, place settings and his time to assure anyone who comes to the diner feels welcome. He goes out of his way to try to speak with people at the Thanksgiving dinner with his gentle smile and friendly banter. Ross also held a fundraiser for a small local church to collect the remaining money they needed to purchase a septic system.

Ross worked with David Cox at Carolina Furniture Company until Jan. 20, 2013, when the building burned to the ground. He then worked with the previous owners of the Sunshine Pancake House. When they decided to close the restaurant Ross purchased the building and made it Ernie’s Diner. The touch of antiques and unique items that decorate the diner, some are for sale and some are for décor.

Ryan Monaghan is his step-son, but you wouldn’t hear that from Ernie. He began a GoFundMe.com Ernie’s Diner. Monaghan said, “Due to COVID-19 and the actions taking place to ensure the health and safety of all, they had to close the restaurant during this time.” He stated that paperwork for a small business loan through the government COVID-19 program has been completed, but has yet to be approved. Unfortunately these funds will not arrive in time to save the restaurants and they could lose their livelihood that they spent years of dedication and hard work on.

Monaghan is not the only person concerned that Ross may lose everything. The community has reached out through Facebook messages and word of mouth to help the diner remain a staple of homecooked meals that continue to blossom in Loris. Monaghan said, “Those who have the pleasure of knowing my mom and Ernie know they are the most selfless caring people around; they have always been available for their family, friends and communities both in Northern New York and Loris.”

Within two hours of the GoFundMe open for donations more than $2,000 was raised. More donations are added daily, but they still need to meet their goal of $8,000. With another $5,040 Ernie’s Diner will have a chance to remain in business. Many grateful customers, friends and family have generously donated $300, $200, $100 with a few adding in $20 to $50. Carol Reichert said, “As much as Ernie has done for our community and helping others, it is time for Ernie to receive some of what he has given so willingly to others.” Travis Kirby said, “Please consider donating whatever you can to this generous couple to keep their business open.” Joyce Graham has a friendship with the Ross family. She said, “I think of all the people that Ernie has helped over the years; we should be able to easily raise thousands of dollars, if everyone returns the favor.” Victoria Morgan said, “Many small businesses are suffering; he is a Godly man and will be the first to jump in and help cook for fundraisers.” She continued, “Giving makes a heart smile.”

Ross is filled with generosity and goodness with an humble heart. He does not like the limelight of the good deeds he has done and still does for others; that privilege is given to those know him or those who he has helped.

About Annie Rigby