FORT LORAMIE — A long tradition ended in Fort Loramie, Saturday morning, June 25, when Kathy and Kevin Barhorst, owners of Vogelsang’s restaurant and tavern, served their last breakfast and closed the doors forever on the 139-year-old business.
It wasn’t their idea to close but when they got a phone call from a company wanting to buy the building, retirement began to look really good to Kathy, who ran the restaurant full time. Kevin put in hours at Vogelsang’s around his own full-time job on the production line at the Honda Engine Plant in Anna.
“I want to spend time with my grandchildren,” Kathy said. She has spent her entire working life in restaurants as owner, cook, waitress, dishwasher and/or bartender.
She and Kevin purchased Vogelsang’s in 2006. They were the eatery’s eighth owners.
“It was built in 1877 by Karl Hasbruck,” Kevin said. Since then, it has stood at corner of state Routes 705 and 66, serving travelers and residents. The first Vogelsang bought it in 1900, but Kevin has never been able to find the man’s first name. That Vogelsang’s son, Ralph, took it over and then Ralph’s son, Bob, ran it until 1983.
Betty Denning purchased it in November 1983 and changed the name to Betty’s Place. She sold it in May 2001 to Jeff Peltier, who called it Esther’s.
After five and a half years, Peltier sold it to Daniel Puthoff, who transferred ownership after just eight months to the Barhorsts.
“I didn’t know a Betty or Esther, so I brought it back to Vogelsang’s,” Kathy said of the name. It became a real family operation. The Barhorsts’ seven children have all worked in the restaurant at one time or another.
Locals have said Vogelsang’s served the best breakfast and the best hamburgers in town.
“Kathy is known for her omelets,” Kevin said. “There were some weeks when she cooked as many as 1,000 eggs a week. The sausage gravy was homemade in a cast iron skillet.”
“They liked my broasted chicken, too,” Kathy said. And then there was the shipwreck stew. Customers like Dave Ross, of Fort Loramie, wouldn’t miss stopping in if the menu board listed Kathy’s version of the baked concoction of hamburger, sliced potatoes, green beans, onions and cream of mushroom soup.
“It had a lot of flavor. Lots of hamburger and veggies. Sometimes I got extra to take home. (The) recipe originated with the late Ruth Voisard, who cooked at the former Seger’s in Loramie, then went across the streeet to Vogelsang’s when Seger’s closed about 20 years ago. I’d like to see a local place get the recipe and add it to their rotation of daily lunch specials,” Ross said.
The “regulars,” people who visited every day or every Sunday for breakfast, often helped themselves to coffee.
“They feel at home,” Kathy said. So much at home, Kevin added, that they would sit at the table and clip their fingernails, leaving the clippings for Kathy to sweep up.
For the last few years, it’s been mostly retired people who have frequented the restaurant.
“They probably came in when they were kids with their parents,” Kevin said. He knows that six or seven generations of his own family have dined there and thinks that his isn’t the only Fort Loramie-area clan to have made Vogelsang’s a favorite stop.
But as the crowd has aged, the hours have changed. Breakfast and lunch times drew a brisk business, but evenings were “thinning out,” Kevin said, and the bar closed daily by 7 p.m.
He’ll always remember a table of three young couples several years ago who were there for breakfast after a Country Concert evening the night before.
“My daughter was waitressing. She asked a blond what kind of toast she wanted with her breakfast. The blond thought about it for a minute or two and then said, ‘The bread kind,’” he laughed.
He and Kathy got to the place at 5:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 6 a.m., Sunday.
“Kathy won’t miss Sundays, when 30 people would come in all at the same time church and she had to make all those breakfasts at once,” Kevin said.
There were times in the long-ago history of the tavern when church-going folk wouldn’t be there at all. For years, it was a pure saloon. The only food it served was a slice of rye bread, spread with limburger cheese, and topped with a slice of onion. Then, if women came in, they entered through a side door and went straight upstairs. Women weren’t to be seen at the bar.
The Barhorsts aren’t sure if the bar is original to the building. They know it was there just before World War II, because they have a photograph of Ralph Vogelsang behind the bar and two others who later entered the war. That bar is now for sale, as are all the kitchen equipment, furnishings, dishes, glasswear, and decorations.
“We have some of it on Craig’s List and eBay,” Kevin said. They may host an open house for people to see what’s available. Anyone interested in buying items can call Kathy at 937-638-9854.
Although the couple has not yet been notified of a closing date on the building’s purchase, plans call for Casey’s General Stores, a convenience store chain based in Iowa, to raze the structure and the one behind it that currently houses Eilerman Insurance in order to erect a store and gas station on that corner.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.