You may never meet Casper the Friendly Ghost, but Hillsdale has its own resident paranormal buddy.
Her name is Agnes, and she haunts the Coffee Cup Diner, according to Kevin Murray, who has worked there since 2006.
“She is like Casper, except a girl,” Murray said.
Pai Ringenberg, the diner’s owner, only laughed in response to Murray’s quips. She was told by the previous owner about Agnes, and Murray said he believes Agnes is real.
“She plays tricks on you. She will throw things off the shelf, splash you with water – all sorts of crazy stuff.” Murray says.
Agnes’ earthly home, a 1928 train car diner, is decorated with red wainscoting and yellow walls. The original bar and stools prompt one to reminisce about “the good old days”.
Ringenberg said she purchased the diner in 1999. For most people, stepping foot into the old diner brings a sense of American nostalgia. They expect a greasy burger and a milkshake. Ringenberg does not disappoint.
“We have comfort food – it’s a home cooked meal,” she said.
Despite this, Ringenberg’s diner has a unique specialty: an entire page of the menu dedicated to Thai food. Ringenberg said her curry soup is one of their most popular lunch meals.
Music professor James Holleman said he has been going to the diner for several years now and enjoys Ringenberg’s Thai cooking.
“She used to only have a special every Thursday, but about a year ago she put her [Thai] meals on the menu,” Holleman said.
If you are looking for a warm reception, good food, and an escape from the Hill, Holleman says the diner is the place to go.
“The food is terrific. It is a refuge,” Holleman said, “Some days I go in and the waitress will say, ‘Pai is making you something special’ and they come out with a half a duck.”
Mason Stuard said he was introduced to the diner by Holleman.
“I’m on my way there right after this interview,” Stuard said. “I’m a big fan of spicy foods. I usually get the yellow chicken curry – it’s something other than steak and potatoes.”
Stuard said the diner has a good atmosphere that is very “home‑y” and he loves that he can get a “worldly dish” for $6.50.
Ringenberg said her customers and coworkers are like her family.
“If nobody does this, who will take care of the customers?”
She said they develop relationships with each of their customers, including the college students.
“We watch out for them, check on them because they are not with their families,” Ringenberg said.
Kathy Wildrick, wife and mother of three children, works at the diner. She said the college students are good kids.
“They are very respectful, very nice and they never cause a problem,” Wildrick said.
If you are looking for a safe place to meet a friend for meal, Ringenberg said she has a strict “no-gossiping” policy. She said she has even fired a few people for talking to others about things they overheard at the diner.
“It is a small town and a small environment. You can turn your ear off and not listen,” Ringenberg said.
“You don’t come here to be eavesdropped on,” Wildrick added. “And it is common courtesy [not to gossip] and shows respect.”
Ringenberg made it clear that what happens at the diner stays at the diner.
“She is a good woman and nice boss. People ask if we are mother and son,” Murray said.
“We have good business. I thank God every day,” Rigenberg said. She continued, laughing, “I really love my job – I do what I like and I like what I do. And I get to yell at people once in awhile.”