BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Ella Irby would show up every morning at 3:45 a.m. for her shift at Bogue’s, except on Tuesdays.

Irby first started working at the restaurant in 1977. Over the years, she did everything from washing dishes to making salads to serving and cooking. However, it was making the restaurant’s famous sweet rolls that became her main job, one she did for 25 years.

“It was my only job,” Irby said.

On Aug. 28, Irby finished her last rolls at the restaurant. A couple of days after owner Patrick Decker had told staff that the restaurant would be closed for a few days, Bogue’s closed for good on Aug. 31, ending a staple of Birmingham’s Lakeview district since 1938.

“Our sales just never recovered from COVID,” Decker said. “It wasn’t an easy decision.”

The restaurant was first started by Pat and Mildred Bogue. Over the years, the restaurant has moved different places. For 64 years, the restaurant sat at 3028 Clairmont Avenue, but moved to make room for a new Walgreens. Since 2010, the restaurant has been located at the corner of Clairmont and 32nd Street South.

Today, an empty building now stands where Bogue’s used to be. No signs of the building’s closing are marked anywhere. Its Facebook page is gone. A busy signal can be heard on the phoneline.

Bogue’s (Courtesy Drew Taylor)

Joyce Mickle, who had been the cashier at Bogue’s for the last 18 years, said that with less business due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fewer people working downtown, it felt like the restaurant was heading toward its final days.

“I’m older than the rest of us. You can see things,” Mickle said. “You can tell when things aren’t going right.”

Mickle said she has felt lost the last week since the restaurant closed.

“I don’t get every morning and get up like I did,” she said. “It’s just different.”

Kelli Casey, who was a waitress at the restaurant for 18 years, said she has cried for a week since Bogue’s closed.

“That’s what upset me the most, not being able to say goodbye to customers,” Casey said.

Like Casey, Irby said she’ll miss the regulars who would come to the restaurant over the years.

“Some people came every day and ordered the same thing,” Irby said.

Those who worked at the restaurant for years are now trying to navigate life after Bogue’s. For Irby, she might stay retired. Nonetheless, she said she’ll be spending a lot more time with her great-granddaughter.

Casey said she would like to go visit her son and grandchild in Arizona. Besides that, she doesn’t know what she’ll do.

“It’s what I’ve done for so long,” Casey said about being a waitress. “The thing is I’m older now and I don’t know how other restaurants feel about hiring someone like me.”

Mickle said she’ll figure out something.

“I’m hanging on,” she said.