Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House celebrates years of inclusiveness

Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House has been a staple in the Huntington community since 1938, and while the restaurant has withstood nearly all of the country’s milestones regarding civil rights and inclusivity, they recently had the opportunity to make their commitment to equality official by joining the Open to All campaign.

Jimmie Tweel Carder, managing owner of Jim’s, said the restaurant’s diverse history dates back to 1939 when her father and the restaurant’s founder, Jim Tweel, hired an African American man named C.M. Gray. 

“He started here when he was 19, he left to go to the war in 1940, came back in 1942 into the dish department, and from that point on was such a hard worker,” Carder said. “He worked himself up to being my dad’s manager after just several years.”

Carder said Gray’s influence in the restaurant was imperative to its success.

“He was a huge instigator in most everything that had to do with this restaurant, a lot of things were his idea, and we used a lot of his recipes,” Carder said. “He was a pillar of the black community, but he was a huge pillar in just the community. Period.”

Carder said Gray, who was nicknamed ‘Bunny,’ helped in the hiring of other African Americans in the community.

“We have never been race discriminatory,” Carder said. “We have been hiring and serving every person of race, color and creed at Jim’s for as long as I can remember.”

Carder credits her grandparents, who were originally from Lebanon, for the family’s rich history in embracing diversity.

“We’ve worked our way up and became who we are because of who we were,” Carder said.

Carder said she remembers sit-ins during the 1950’s and 1960’s at a former restaurant on 9th Street in Huntington called the White Pantry.

“They were doing sit-ins there because they refused to even serve blacks,” Carder said. “Therefore, they never hired blacks either.”

During 1963, these sit-ins turned violent when the owner of the White Pantry attacked the peaceful protesters.

Looking back at Huntington’s history, Carder said she is proud of how far the city has come.

Jim’s joined the Open to All campaign, which promotes diversity and inclusion within the community, in January.

“I love it; I think it’s time that something like this has happened,” Carder said. “I commend all those that have been involved in it and brought it to the attention of the community, all the way to the mayor on down.”

Carder said while Jim’s has been a supporter of equal rights since its establishment, she is excited to see others joining the movement.

“I think everybody is realizing that there needs to be an open air here,” Carder said.

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].