50 years of Henny Penny includes two bomb scares, a few hold ups, a shooting and a stabbing

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It was half a century ago when Henny Penny opened in Petaluma, bringing affordably priced comfort food to Petaluma, sometimes 24-hours a day in its storied history. Today, the business looks much like it did when Gus and Mary Kotsaris first conceived the diner as a place where both locals and weary road warriors from Highway 101 could find a robust meal whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Like any place with 50 years of history under its belt, Henny Penny has seen its share of bad behavior from customers. A quick search of the Argus-Courier archives uncovered a slew of surprising, scary and strange crimes that have taken place at the Petaluma Boulevard North restaurant.

In 1969, just one year after Henny Penny opened its doors, the Petaluma police got a strange call. A man with a gruff voice claimed that he planted a bomb at the diner. Apparently, it caused little concern. A small news brief buried on page five of the Aug. 28, 1969 Argus-Courier flippantly states “No appetite loss over bomb scare.” It reads, “Patrons continued eating unconcernedly after police arrived and a search disclosed nothing that looked like a bomb.” Just one week later, police received another call about a bomb at Henny Penny.

“I don’t want to hurt but one person. You people just walked over the first bomb and it didn’t go off. But I put another one there and it will go off,” the man said, according to a Sept. 2, 1969 Argus-Courier brief. Once again police scanned the restaurant, but no bomb was found. The anonymous caller was never identified.

At least three hold ups have happened in Henny Penny’s history, but none quite like the one in January 1985. The headline said it all: “Waitress ignores robbery attempt.” Laurie Kilbride served the customer his breakfast, which he promptly ate. When the bill arrived, he passed her a note demanding money instead.

“He simulated that he had a handgun, though none was seen,” the Jan. 28, 1985 Argus article said. “Kilbride, however, ignored the note and the man and started talking to another customer, police said. The man then fled the restaurant, without any cash but also without paying his bill.”

Although Kilbride worked with police to create a sketch of the culprit, the man was never identified.

Later in 1985, a Santa Rosa man stopped by Henny Penny for a meal on his way home from the city, where another patron asked him for a ride. As soon as they were in the car, the patron pulled a knife on the man, demanding his wallet. The man did not fork over his cash, and instead got stabbed in the thigh. Luckily, the injury was minor enough that the man was able to drive himself to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment. The attacker was never identified.

“Bullet fired into restaurant,” the June 14, 1994 headline read. “Projectile misses diners by 1 foot.”

Witnesses say it was a normal Friday night until the shot rang out. A seemingly stray bullet pierced the window, narrowly missing two people eating at a booth. Police thought it may have come from a passing motorcycle that was seen speeding from the area following a case of road rage. Then-owner Pete Magoulas told police at the time it was just the latest in a spate of recent incidents. That same year, the restaurant’s safe was broken into during a nighttime robbery, and Magoulas’ own Corvette and animal trailer were both stolen from the parking lot in two different thefts. “I give up,” he told the paper at the time.

Parking lot robberies were somewhat common in Henny Penny’s history. But in 1997, a man was brazen enough to break into cars right in front of a police officer, who was enjoying his breakfast at a window table. The officer walked outside and promptly arrested the 20-year-old burglar.

In addition to some colorful crimes, Henny Penny’s has a rich history of supporting local youth sports teams and giving back to the Petaluma community.

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