For more than 40 years people traveling Route 61 through Port Clinton have frequented the 3C’s Family Restaurant. Situated near the Berks-Schuylkill County border and sandwiched between the Little Schuylkill River and Rt. 61, 3C’s is a staple for locals and visitors looking for homestyle breakfasts and belly-busting lunches.
Originally located in Tremont, 3C’s is named for Sam and Charlotte Crouse and their son David. The restaurant opened in 1974 serving broasted chicken, pizza, subs and sandwiches. Opening at 10 a.m., the restaurant only served lunch and dinner. David’s introduction of the “Muffin Makin,” which Crouse referred to as breakfast on a bun (long before they were common at fast-food restaurants) brought in the late-morning crowd and inspired the Crouse family to relocate and expand the menu to include breakfast.
In 1978 they opened at their current location with a full-scale breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. As the menu grew, so did their family. David and his wife Diane had two sons, and the 16-hour days at the restaurant began to take their toll. In order to accommodate family responsibilities, Crouse shifted his hours to focus more on the breakfast and lunch crowd and began closing earlier in order to be with his family.
3C’s quickly became a favorite breakfast stop for truckers, commuters, hunters and hikers. The restaurant gained fame for their creamed chip beef, Southern sausage and gravy biscuit, and more than 50 other breakfast choices. Breakfast became its mainstay, with Crouse even opening his doors at 4 am during hunting season.
Their location along a major highway a few miles from Interstate 78 has been both a blessing and a burden at times. The restaurant has sustained numerous automobile crashes into the building, as Crouse has remodeled twice and installed concrete barriers in front of the building.
The millennium years
Business was booming, and 3C’s was the go-to place for people from all walks of life. Crouse added a back deck overlooking the river, renovated the interior after a pickup truck demolished the front of his building, and expanded his breakfast and lunch menus to include heart-healthy food choices. His son Brian joined the business and began experimenting with new ideas.
Enter COVID-19 in March 2020. 3C’s was forced to shut its doors along with the other restaurants in Pennsylvania. What started as two weeks turned into more than 16 months. With COVID restrictions decimating the food-service industry, Crouse decided not to open while restrictions were in effect, even when restaurants were allowed to serve at 25% capacity and offer take-out food.
“My food was not made for take-out,” Crouse said. “Breakfast especially doesn’t travel well.”
He also did not feel that his staff could make a living on 25% capacity, so he shut the doors and waited, and waited. The rumor mill buzzed about the demise or sale of the restaurant. But Crouse got busy and quietly began planning to reopen.
Updating his equipment, freshening up the interior and rehiring a few of his long-time employees, Crouse was ready to reopen 3C’s last August. Business quickly picked up.
“I’m very humbled by the loyalty of my customers,” Crouse said.
But he faced new challenges. Getting and keeping help proved to be a hurdle. Having relied on local high school students over the years, Crouse found many no longer wanted to work. Some of his prior staff had found other jobs during the shutdown, and others just didn’t want to rejoin the workforce. Soaring food costs have kept the Crouse’s on their toes, but Dave says he is not willing to sacrifice quality for price.
Winging towards the future
After 49 years in the business, Crouse is still experimenting. Undaunted by the challenges, Crouse and his son Brian are looking for new ways to grow the business. When a liquor license became available at the end of the year, he purchased it. After buying the necessary equipment and accessories, 3C’s began serving alcohol in March. Brian, who had worked in various bars over the years, took on a new role as bartender and manager and began experimenting with different cocktails and drink specials.
Not surprising, Bloody Mary’s and Mimosa’s are two of the most popular beverages on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Brian boasts that his Bloody Mary’s keep customers coming back week after week.
3C’s now operates a full-service bar and is venturing back into evening service by introducing Wings and Things. Currently Wings and Things is held on the last Thursday of the month from 4 to 8 pm and features a variety of comfort foods. Patrons can choose from more than 20 flavors of wings plus an array of appetizers, salads, burgers, wraps and entrees.
Wings and Things is a huge success. The restaurant is at full capacity with patrons downing beers and gnawing away at his delicious wings – and other things. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
3C’s seats 135 people and another 24 on the deck weather permitting. Hours are Wednesday to Friday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can make reservations at 610-562-5925.