YORK, Neb. — “Chances are we’ll make it, chances are we’ll go broke.”
That was the sentiment of Ray and Shirley Reetz in 1964 when they took a leap of faith and expanded the little Cozy Lunch diner in downtown York.
They even used their mantra in the new restaurant’s name: Chances R.
The Reetzes spent many long hours transforming a small business into a legendary eatery.
Shirley Reetz was at the back and front of the house, cooking, cleaning and greeting customers.
Reetz died Friday at age 79. Services are today at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in York.
Survivors include her husband; children Suzanne Vanous of York, Sondra Hermanson of Lincoln and Jason of Estes Park, Colo.; brother Bob Schultz of Huntington Beach, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
In 1931 Hiney Nuefeld opened the Cozy Lunch, and in 1937 Shirley’s father and grandfather purchased the cafe. In 1957 Shirley and Ray became the owners of the 50-seat diner.
After a few years, they decided to expand so the business could grow and they could add to their staff.
Chances R was born.
“We were broke, but we thought we’d give it a try,” Shirley said in a 2006 interview.
Over the course of time, more storefronts became part of the Chances R facility.
Meanwhile, the restaurant became famous, with locals and travelers from around the nation enjoying pan-fried chicken, creamy homemade gravy and carrot cake.
In 1994 the Reetzes were named the Restaurateurs of the Year by the Nebraska Restaurant Association. In 2006 the York Area Chamber of Commerce gave them the Business Hall of Fame Legends Award.
Eventually Shirley and Ray retired, leaving the business in the hands of daughter Suzanne and her husband, Tom Vanous, and dozens of loyal employees.
Suzanne Vanous said her mother was a “lighthearted woman who always wanted to liven things up. If she felt someone was being too tight-laced or uptight, she’d pull out a scissors and just cut their neckties off. She started that practice and over time got a reputation for doing that.
“My mother was just spunky and ornery enough to get away with it,” Vanous said, chuckling.
Although Shirley retired and her health deteriorated in the past year or so, she never forgot about her business.
“Even toward the end, she always had an observation or a critique pertaining to the restaurant,” Vanous said. “And you know, I understand that. I really do. Chances R was their baby.”