CELINA – When Fort Loramie resident Tim Barhorst opened Behms for the first time on May 15, he expected some family and close friends to stop in.
The soft opening turned out to be much bigger than that, though, as hundreds of people visited the restaurant on the south side of Grand Lake St. Marys.
“It was the hardest soft opening ever,” Behms General Manager Heather Miller said with a laugh. “We were going into this thinking friends and family, but because Behms is such a legacy, it was not just friends and family. At one time we probably had, I would say, a good 600, 700 people there.”
Barhorst purchased Behms, which has been in business since 1930, on May 7. He opened the restaurant for a soft opening on May 15 and 16 plus May 22 and 23 in anticipation of Thursday’s grand opening. The timing couldn’t be much better as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the busy season on the lake.
“I feel very fortunate because I think there’s more luck there than skill,” Barhorst said of the timing. “I’ve been looking at this for a year and a half, two years, and things just kind of came together for me.”
Under Barhorst’s ownership, Behms will become a bar and grill while retaining some of the qualities that made it a popular family restaurant for more than 90 years. The retooled Behms also will place more emphasis on its outdoor space, which looks out onto Grand Lake and Behm’s Lighthouse.
“We’re going to have a lot of outdoor focus, a lot of entertainment, a lot of cold beer, burgers,” Barhorst said. “We’re going to try to preserve some of the longstanding traditions of the place but expand it to be more of an outside, outdoor, live entertainment facility as well.
“We’re going to maximize that patio because that thing is the best view on Grand Lake St. Marys.”
Along with burgers and pizza, the menu also will feature Behms Favorites – a few of the most popular dishes from the restaurant’s past including walleye, salmon and tenderloin.
“They had a very loyal following for many, many, many years,” Barhorst said. “So I want to tap into that.”
Behms also will look to maintain its family friendly atmosphere with arcade games that Barhorst plans to install. And his 12-year-old son, Alex, will run a convenience store with pop, candy and ice cream that Barhorst expects to be popular with boaters stopping by with their families.
“It’s not just for adults,” he said. “During the day, there’s a lot of family boaters that stopped in for a pizza and a burger or different things. So we’re going to make it friendly for the kids, too.”
For Barhorst, Grand Lake St. Marys always has been about family. His parents owned a lake house at Grand Lake, and they would spend time there together.
“We always were out at the lake with family, friends. My parents always had a boat, and they were always out there, and I liked to water ski there and fish,” said Barhorst, who bought his parents’ lake house when they decided to downsize.
Behms was one of the restaurants the family would visit on the lake for brunch and dinners, and Barhorst saw a lot of potential to make it even better.
He expects the bar and grill atmosphere to appeal to boaters and campers at the lake. He thinks the restaurant also will continue to draw crowds the rest of the year as a place to watch sports and have a great meal.
“I just want to reestablish ourselves as one of the main places to visit on the lake,” Barhorst said. “And I want to establish this as the highest quality food restaurant on the lake and the funnest place to be in the summer.”
As a financial adviser and employee benefits consultant, Barhorst has years of experience as a small business owner. He’s never owned a restaurant but did work part-time as a bartender when he was younger.
He thinks the experience of Miller, who managed a restaurant in Fort Loramie and worked in management at a hotel in Sidney, will help make Behms successful.
“Having my viewpoint and her operational expertise, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” Barhorst said.
Having already had a couple successful weekends, Barhorst and Miller anticipate the crowds will continue to come as Behms reopens full-time.
“It’s going to be a great summer,” Miller said. “A great summer.”
Behms is located at 5494 Behm Road, Celina, on the south side of Grand Lake St. Marys. For more information, call 419-394-3934 or visit the Behms page on Facebook.