The end of an era at Judy’s Castle

Judy’s Castle was auctioned off to Jim Brown on Oct. 15. Here’s a look at the people who have been running the historic restaurant for the past 24 years.

Safely tucked between a two-and-a-half star motel and one of Bowling Green’s many used car dealerships sits a small diner, no bigger than a modest two-bedroom house. With a faded sign and a parking lot that holds around 20 cars, someone passing through town might think little of the place.

The booths and tables have faded after years of use, and a few of the barstools at the counter rely on torn pieces of packing tape to hold their stuffing where it belongs. The bright fluorescent lighting allows you to see the place for exactly how it is: worn down and full of local history. But after 50 years, the diner’s future is uncertain now that owners Felicia and Paul Durbin have decided to auction it off on Oct. 15.

“I can’t hang onto it, not like I want to,” Felicia Durbin said. “We decided it was time to give it up.”

Felicia Durbin, one of the owners of Judy’s Castle, fills Tim Newton’s coffee. Durbin has worked in the diner almost every day since she bought the diner with her husband, Paul Durbin, 24 years ago. Paul and Felicia both said they wanted to sell the diner in order to spend more time with their family and grandkids. “It’s been great, but there’s a time for everything, and I’m tired,” Felicia Durbin said.

Twenty-four years ago, the Durbins bought Judy’s Castle from the original owners, and they’ve been putting their heart and soul into it ever since. Felicia Durbin said in the past few months her husband’s health issues have forced her to take on the primary role in the business, and it’s become too much for her.

“If I can’t do it like I want to do it, then I’m going to move on,” Durbin said.

Felicia Durbin can be found on any given day from open until close rushing around from table to table, refilling coffee mugs and bringing out trays filled with catfish platters and country ham. By her side is waitress Cathy Rigsby, who has worked at Judy’s for 20 years. She said despite her shock and disappointment, she hopes things will stay the same when someone buys the restaurant at auction.

“I hope they keep the restaurant the same, and I hope I can stay,” Rigsby said.


David Wiseman and Johnny Webb have been coming to Judy’s Castle for over 40 years. The men have been coming to the diner since they went to WKU. “It’s almost a landmark in Bowling Green,” Webb said.

Rigsby said during her time at Judy’s, she’s seen a lot of people come and go. The staff and regular customers who come into Judy’s are like one big family, she said.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of good people, and I’m going to be sad to see Paul and Felicia go. They’ve been good people to work for.”

Durbin said when she told the staff at Judy’s about the auction, several of them left to find other jobs, forcing the restaurant to cut its hours and close at 2 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. However, she said some of her best employees have decided to stay until the end, which has allowed Judy’s to keep its doors open.

“I couldn’t do it without my employees — there’s just no way,” she said. “I depend on them every single day.”

Durbin said in the past 24 years she’s been fortunate enough to meet people from all walks of life whom she never would have met otherwise. She said the clientele they serve are the clientele she’d always envisioned herself working with “Just good ole, down home people,” she said.

She’s on a first-name basis with a lot of the people who come through the diner’s doors. If she doesn’t know their names, she usually calls them something like “dear” or “honey,” in a way that lets them know they’re welcome in her home.

Gary Davis (from left), Jerry Blankenship, Paul Durbin, Darryl Keen and Kevin Kirby have breakfast at Judy’s Castle every single morning. Most of the regulars plan to continue coming as long as Judy’s Castle is still open. “We’re like the light fixtures — we come with the building,” Kirby said. “My second home,” Blankenship said. “That’s all there is to say.”

“I’ve seen a lot of college students grow up, graduate, come back and bring their kids in,” she said. “We’ve served two or three generations of families here.”

Durbin said plenty of people have come by, interested in purchasing the historic restaurant. When she and her husband bought it in 1994, they kept almost everything exactly the way it was, and Durbin said she wants it to stay that way. She said she would hate to see Judy’s fall victim to a more corporate way of business.

“It’s been running the same way for 50 years, and it works this way,” she said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”