MINSTER – Fred Meyer, owner of the Wooden Shoe Inn in Minster, said he will continue to work on improving his restaurant after the business received health code violations and subsequent negative publicity.
“Improvements will continue, regardless of (the level of) business,” he said.
He pointed out that he and his wife, Margaret, have come out of retirement to personally take the lead in cleaning up the problems.
The Auglaize County Health Department had called Meyer to its May meeting because repeated violations had not been remedied. While the board considered suspension of the restaurant’s food license for 30 days, Meyer was able to make the case for a probationary period of 30 days.
At the June Health Department meeting, Meyer was granted another 30 days to continue the cleanup work because Curt Anderson, board environmental health director, told the body he was satisfied with the progress being made.
“They have made real progress there,” Anderson said in response to the progress being made at Wooden Shoe. “There’s still a ways to go, but as long as they keep heading in the right direction, there is a good chance they’ll be in much better shape by the end of the year.”
On Friday, Meyer outlined the progress they had made in their repairs and renovations.
“We had remedied 90% of the problems in our first 30 days,” he said.
His list of repairs were replacement of wood shelves in the kitchen with steel ones, replacing a non-functioning cooler and setting up a cleaning schedule for the hood over the grill. A new grill has been purchased and is expected to be installed soon. An old kitchen stove was removed.
The kitchen floor was power-washed recently, and Meyer said they will seal the grout between the tiles. The area around the dishwasher was brought up to code. Also power-washed was the concrete floors outside the walk-in coolers and in the outside garbage storage area. Still to be removed are wood shelves outside the coolers.
A new employee manual with proper procedures is being developed.
Out in the public area, Meyer said they had begun cleaning off the chairs and scheduled stripping and re-waxing of the floors. He said he has a company coming in to replace the floor behind the bar.
Food preparation and sanitation problems also were addressed. He said they had gotten rid of the old steam tables, saying they were not really needed. A cleaning program for the potato peeler was implemented, he said, along with having proper solution and cleaning supplies available for cleaning tables. Food is being stored and dated properly.
Meyer said one plan for the future is to enclose the back bar area to create a storage room to hold the ice machine and other equipment the Health Department wants on the main floor.
A large part of the Health Department citations were over cleanliness of the kitchen ceiling, walls and floors. Meyer said the contractor he consulted recommended they start with repair/replacement of the ceiling first followed by the walls and, finally, replacement of the tiled floor, which has many cracked tiles, making cleaning difficult.
Meyer said he plans to get this done. but contractors have been very busy, especially in dealing with the recent storm damage. He also said it depends on the cost. He thought such renovations would run into the thousands. He said he would work with Anderson to correct the problems.
The Wooden Shoe Inn, which built right after prohibition ended in 1933, has been a landmark in Minster ever since, famous for its fried chicken.
In his 50 years in the business, he said, the changing times have put a damper on the business’ bottom line.
He said one reason was competition.
“When we started all those years ago there were many fewer places to eat,” Meyer said.
He said the mushrooming of eateries of various themes could be hard to compete against.
The other reason, he said, was the crack-down on smoking and driving under the influence charges by law enforcement. He said alcohol sales were often how area businesses prospered.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.