Joe's Viaduct to close after 70 years

Apr. 29—CUMBERLAND — Joe's Viaduct Restaurant will be closing its kitchen permanently Tuesday following a 70-year run of serving customers.

With just seven booths, Joe's Viaduct, 301 N. Centre St., has been a well-known option for hungry locals since it first opened in 1953.

Although it didn't include a bar, the words to the "Cheers" TV sitcom theme, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name," were fitting.

"This place is like a second home," said Fred Sullivan, who was having coffee at Joe's on Friday. "They're like family here."

Although the kitchen is closing, the business includes the attached Allegany Liquor Store, which will remain open.

The businesses are owned by Jo Ann and Doug Moulden. "It's time," Jo Ann Moulden said. "We've been blessed with good customers and good staff."

Word of the closure began circulating two weeks ago. "A lot of people cried when we told them we were going to do that," she said. "They don't want us to close."

Joe's Viaduct Restaurant has deep roots in the community. Established by Jo Ann Moulden's parents, Joseph and Denda Ugoletti, it first opened in 1953 at 249 Mechanic St. along the railroad viaduct.

"Dad was in the Army in the Korean War as a cook," Moulden said.

"I went there with my mother and father," said longtime customer Paul Yockus. "Joe's pizza was the first pizza I ever had. I believe it was the only pizza in Cumberland at that time in the early 50s.

"I have taken my own children and grandchildren there. They had great soups and coffee."

Moulden began working for her parents at a young age.

"I started at age 13 as a dishwasher so I've got 50 years in," she said. "I can remember when I worked on Mechanic Street.

"I have an old menu from there where a pizza was 75 cents and soups went for 35 cents. I still remember the phone number: PA2-9811. We catered to our customer. We wanted to do it ourselves — keep it small and keep it local."

"I was taken there by my parents as a kid when it was the original Joe's," said Pat Sullivan. "They had booths and a pinball table. We had pizza.

"Every year Anheuser-Busch would send a calendar and it was St. Louis Cardinals with a team picture, recalls Sullivan, 64. "I always remember those calendars on the wall. When they put in Queen City Drive, that was one of the buildings that got taken out."

After operating on Mechanic Street for 23 years, the construction of Queen City Drive in 1976 forced the Ugoletti's to relocate. They chose a vacant building on the other side of the viaduct at 301 Centre St.

The Ugoletti's reopened the doors at the new site and built the liquor store onto the existing building the following year.

"We served good food," Moulden said of their success. "It's homecooked food served on warm plates. We heat our plates. Everything is original. My hot dog sauce is one of the best."

"It's always been good food," Sullivan said. "We loved the pizza. We always talked about what made it different. It was like a meat sauce and had a great flavor. It was their own.

"They also would have huge breakfasts for almost nothing. If you didn't have a lot of money you could go down there and load up for sure," he said.

Dianna Welsh, of Oldtown, has been a waitress at Joe's for 37 years.

"I came here August of 1987 and it just felt like home," she said. "Coming to work is like going to another house that you live in. It's hard to explain. It's comfortable.

"I loved Joe and Miss P (Denda). Then Jo Ann became my boss. She's been great."

Welsh said she's made a lot of friends.

"They're very loyal customers," she said. "You get to know them all. We know where they like to sit. Sometimes you can have their order ready when they come through the door."

"My family designated the Viaduct as our home base for the past 18 years," said Brianna Persons. "Anytime we're celebrating, in need of a reset, or a place to just get away together, we turn to Joe's. The only place in town I can order an egg sandwich on the good bread, and they always know exactly how to make it.

"My sister loves fries with gravy and they know she'll order it every single time. My daughter, 5, calls it her 'pancake place.' We will miss walking through the door and knowing we'll be greeted by the people who have become our family."

Welsh was there for the passing of Joe Ugoletti in 1992 and Denda's passing in 2011.

"I don't think I'd be as comfortable as anywhere else," said Welsh. "I'm going to retire and I'm going to miss the people."

"We had an agreement that she (Dianna) would stay until I was done," Moulden said. "In the last six months I'm like, 'Dianna are you ready?' She said, 'I'm ready when you are.' Because it's brutal and tough."

Moulden, who puts in 14-hour days, said the closure is a reflection of the difficulties facing mom-and-pop stores everywhere.

"It's hard to make it," she said. "We have no corporate backing. Wages kill us. Prices of food kill us. I don't want to keep on increasing my prices because my customers can't afford that. They are not used to that and I don't want to do it."

After a 71-year run, the pots and pans will go silent as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"People are devastated," Moulden said. "They say, 'where are we going to go? What will we do?' I tell them to support small business if you can."

According to Moulden, the restaurant used local suppliers like Wayne's Country Fresh Meats in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, Caporale's Bread, the former Fruit Bowl and others.

The closing of the kitchen is the first phase of a retirement process for the 63-year-old Moulden.

"We will eventually sell the liquor store. But for now we are starting with the restaurant," she said. "We've had the best customers and employees and my husband ... they've been the backbone of my business. It was that and our faith."

Moulden said the seven booths will remain.

"I'll still have coffee," she said. "They can enjoy coffee and play Keno. Stop in see us. We like seeing people."

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.