Step into the new Classics @ Olde Towne restaurant when it opens later this week and you’ll find a unique combination of the culinary cultures of its co-owners, Kelly and David Joch.
At least that’s the vision of Kelly, who will be managing the business when the doors open Thursday for the evening meal.
The Kentucky native is hoping to combine the friendliness and down-home cooking from her southern upbringing with the ambience and menu of the five-star culinary business experience of David’s family.
The result will be a restaurant that offers good-old hamburgers and other popular lunch sandwiches, but will feature a dinner menu with top-quality charbroiled steaks, prime rib and fish—all served on tables covered with white tablecloths with a grand piano in the foyer.
Above all, Kelly wants to provide her customers with an all-you-can-handle portion of southern hospitality and great service.
“I want them to come in, I want to hug them, I want to talk their legs off and call them by their first name,” she said with a smile.
New lease on life
If Kelly is enthusiastic about the new restaurant, it reflects the new lease on life she said she has acquired since marrying David last January.
The couple met when David stepped into the Kentucky restaurant where she was working as a waitress. Kelly had just ended a difficult marriage of 24 years.
“He came in with some of his friends, and when he left I didn’t think I’d ever see him again,” she said. “A couple of weeks later he strolled in. I sat down at a little table with him and we haven’t been apart since.”
Kelly said she and David looked into opening a restaurant in Kentucky, where the Wisconsin native was working as a veterinarian at a local dairy.
But the couple put that plan on hold because David was discontent with his job. They decided to look for other opportunities. After circulating his resume, David received a response from Klassen Dairy near Hillsboro.
“In a couple of weeks, they moved us up here,” Kelly said. “We have a house here and they have taken such good care of us.”
Upon arrival in April, Kelly took a job as a waitress at Olde Towne. When the restaurant was closed in August, the couple was approached about taking over the business. But the situation was complicated by foreclosure proceedings on the historic 1887 building.
The building became the property of Tampa State Bank, who called the Jochs (pronounced “Yock”) to see if they were interested in leasing the building for a restaurant.
“We bought everything on the inside,” Kelly said. “Now we’re going to make a go of it.”
A varied menu
The couple decided early on that their menu wouldn’t feature the Low-German menu that previous owners had offered.
“I don’t want to serve the German stuff because I’m not German and I’m not familiar with it,” Kelly said, adding with a smile: “I can’t even pronounce some of it because I’m from Kentucky.”
The couple acquired a new charbroiler for the kitchen to prepare their featured entrees, especially the steak options.
“We’re going to be serving those Sterling Steaks that you have to drive to Wichita to get, and I’m going to keep the price down to the point where you can’t afford to go there,” Kelly said.
In addition, the dinner menu will include prime rib, country-fried steak and variations for pork chops, prime rib, salmon and shrimp—all served with a choice of baked potatoes, sweet potatoes or steak fries, plus vegetables and homemade desserts.
Kelly settled on the name “Classics @ Olde Towne” because she wants to offer classic sandwiches for those who prefer that approach.
“We’re going to do your classic hamburger, your classic BLT, your classic reuben, your classic club,” she said. “And I’m going to do an avocado wrap or something the heart-healthy people might want.”
Kelly said a staple provision with every dinner will be a basket of sweet-potato biscuits “that just melt in your mouth.”
In the addition to the menu, the Jochs intend to provide the community with outstanding service, Kelly said.
The restaurant will be open for lunch beginning at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. She plans to provide breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant will remain open until 8 or 9 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday, and until 3 p.m. Sunday.
Joch said she intends to provide delivery service on weekdays. Her plan is to come in and begin cooking around 9 a.m., and let local businesses and institutions know via e-mail what’s cooking.
“I’m going to say, this is what I’ve cooked this morning—tell me how many you want,” Kelly said. “Just let me know and we’ll do a delivery.”
Delivery extends to residences, too.
“When it snows, we’ll take you a hamburger down on Lincoln Street,” she said. “I think it needs to be done. We have to do it.”
Kelly said the restaurant stands ready to host meetings and group dinners by arrangement. She also has an eye on using the basement as a gathering place for students, perhaps with free WiFi.
Kelly said having a grand piano in the foyer is a dream come true, and she hopes to find local people to play it during the dinner hours each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“Not too loud,” she was quick to add. “But if you want Frank Sinatra, or music from the ’50s or ’60s, go over there and tell somebody, and I think they’ll be able to do it. Or, if you want, get up and dance in the foyer. I think that would be cool, too.”
Work and fun
Joch said she knows the business will mean a lot of work for her, but she is excited by the staff she has hired to assist her.
“I’m going to cook hard, but I’m going to have fun,” she said. “I think we have a good team around us. We’re working with U.S. Foods, we’ll try to use local (providers) and we’ll try to keep everything fresh.”
Kelly said she knows the kind of restaurant she wants to provide, and it will be a work in progress.
“The way I feel about my life right now, the way my husband has made me feel, this restaurant could be anything,” she said. “I have no limits on anything right now.”
To help with the process, Kelly said she wants feedback from her customers.
“I want to know what you want,” she said. “I really want to know your opinion, I really do.”