The Skyline Diner
SALEM — A combined cadence of restaurant noise and airplane engines greets hungry pilots at Salem Air Park. The family-owned airstrip attracts many business and private planes, but its Skyline Diner has truly taken flight with the community.
“They have a secret recipe for pancakes that are the best I’ve ever had, and they use real maple syrup,” patron Barry Fowler says. “I also like to support a local family who are trying to make a living on their own.”
Behind the Skyline Diner’s success are Mike and Brenda Pidgeon. With a name destined for flight and roots in the community they service. Mike and Brenda, along with their children, nested down at the Salem Air Park in the spring of 2005. They bought the airstrip from a neighbor after spending years farming the land next to the airpark.
Where Everyone Knows Your Plane (and How You Take Your Coffee.)
Mike had been a novice pilot in the past and the family figured the purchase would be a good way to get back into the air.
“We weren’t really sure we wanted to own an airport, maybe just a plane,” Mike says. “But a couple planes came with the airport, so I figured it was a two-in-one package.”
When the Pidgeons opened their restaurant, Salem residents flocked to the fish specials, homemade pies and friends on both sides of the counter. The décor is like your mother’s cozy dining room – if your mother had an addiction to aviation.
The walls are adorned with murals of planes and pilots, as well as family sayings, life lessons and other homey knick-knacks. In the middle of a room, a small plane hangs from the ceiling, making the patrons feel even closer to the sky.
“It’s a unique place, especially with its planes and Air Force decorations,” Jo-Ann Fowler says. “It also has a down-home and friendly atmosphere that (the Pidgeon family) help provide with their personal service.”
The décor is like your mother’s cozy dining room – if your mother had an addiction to aviation.
In the past, the Pidgeon family dog, Winnie, would frequent the dining room, adding to the feeling of home and giving children someone to play with – as long as they finished their food first.
But health inspectors ousted Winnie from the dining area, so Mike painted her sitting on the porch of the family house, a mural that decorates one wall. The real Winnie can be found roaming the rest of the park.
Along with the restaurant that is equal parts Norman Rockwell and Amelia Earhart, the Salem Air Park also includes a flight school, pilot’s lounge and gift shop that sells supplies, T-shirts and homemade candles. Soon, a bed and breakfast will provide another service both to pilots and their more grounded patrons.
“We’re kind of the Wal-Mart of airports,” says Ben Pidgeon, the 22-year old son who helps manage
the park. “One stop shopping.”
— Marcus Barkley is a recent graduate of the Kent State University Journalism program. He is a freelance writer for sports2debate.com
“What makes the Stories That Fly project special is that it is not just about aviation. Beyond the rotors and landing strips lies a sense of community, a feeling of oneness that bonds the stories and the characters together over a unifying passion for flight.”