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'Mike's' last day: Nostalgic customers overwhelm the restaurant

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Although two more Mike's Drive Ins remain, the iconic Sellwood location is gone

ERIC NORBERG - A few light snow showers fell, spangling this photo with points of light, as customers drove through the parking lot at Mikes Drive In on December 17, often having to drive on through and park across the street, due to the size of the crowd on closing night. By all odds, the Sellwood "Mike's Drive In" became, in its 31 years on the corner of S.E. 17th and Tenino, the most popular and most widely-attended restaurant in Sellwood and Westmoreland. And, on its last day, designated by its owner Todd Freeman as "Customer Appreciation Day", it was clear its customers also truly appreciated the restaurant.

Saturday, December 17, started slow at Mike's, because the day had dawned with icy streets, and the remains of the snowfall that briefly paralyzed the city two days before. But by late afternoon the traffic conditions were no deterrent to those who wanted to come and dine one more time at the iconic drive-in.

ERIC NORBERG - A few customers even left personal notes for the staff on the counter, as Mikes prepared to close forever in Sellwood on December 17. By 6 p.m., arriving patrons found the ordering line snaking into the dining room, past the soft drink machine, and down the north wall, and for a time the counter staff were taking orders to-go only, because there was no room left to sit down. A stack of the January BEE, in which the headline story was the tale of how the restaurant had come to be closing, was on the bench near the door and was rapidly shrinking.

Owner Freeman was on hand, as he had promised in the newspaper to be all week, and left only to go fetch more food items the restaurant was running out of as the evening progressed. Customers of all ages stood around and recalled good times there, and a few left fond notes on the counter for the staff.

ERIC NORBERG - On the foggy first morning of winter, December 21, the manager of the closed restaurant, Kelly Hunt (far right), was on hand with a staff member to remove the fixtures before the buildings demolition. Window artist Scot Campbell had been hired one last time, to paint a farewell to customers.Freeman wanted his Sellwood-Westmoreland customers to know he would miss them, and in a classy touch after the doors closed permanently, he hired window painter extraordinaire (and professional clown) Scot Campbell to return one more time and paint a farewell on the building.

The other two remaining "Mike's" will remain open. The nearest, a short distance away, is the original small drive-in at the corner of Highway 224 and Harrison Street in Milwaukie – and the other is the newly-remodeled and expanded restaurant at 7th and Madison in Oregon City. The Sellwood building will be demolished to make way for – you guessed it – yet another new apartment building.