It took only 18 minutes for the Nugget Coffeeshop to go from practically empty to completely full Thursday morning. Amid the clatter of coffee cups and the hushed roar that seemed to come from everywhere, Irma, 80, and Omer Flanders, 89, sat down to Thanksgiving dinner.
"We've been coming to Thanksgiving at the Nugget for the last four years," Irma said. "We come to eat here a lot. It's just a nice place."
Omer said, "We come here when we can't get to Sacramento to see our daughter."
The couple said chain restrictions on the mountain passes prevented them from heading west this year.
"We are getting older, and we stay in town a lot more," Irma said. "But we're thankful we can get up in the morning and do what we want."
Every year since it opened in 1957, the Nugget has given away free dinners from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day to thank to customers and provide a place for those who might not have anywhere to go.
"This isn't just our business, it's our home and our community," said Kelly Brant, Nugget director of marketing. "I end up working a lot of holidays, and this is like having a big extended family. We have so many great guests that it's like a big family dinner."
Brant said that between the two holidays, the coffee shop will serve 3,200 to 3,500 free turkey or ham dinners.
Madonna Mastin, 74, was among those who chose ham because she was cooking turkey on Friday for her son and grandson. Despite moving to Carson City just two years after the Nugget opened, Mastin said this is only her second time for not cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
For Heiki Owens, server supervisor in the coffee shop, the rush meant her slow morning was about to be over.
"It's not too bad. We could be busier if they'd put more tables in," Heiki said jokingly.
Owens has spent her last 11 Thanksgivings serving holiday dinner to the coffeeshop's customers.
"A lot of them are very appreciative and thankful to the Nugget for all that we do. They get to enjoy a good meal, and I enjoy being a part of that," she said.
As for her own family, Owens said she doesn't mind working the holiday.
"When my children were small, I enjoyed staying home. Now I'm able to let someone else do that," she said.
Owens said she celebrated Thanksgiving with her family last weekend.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.