- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

CLAY CITY, Ind. (AP) - Bob and Angie Freeman sold their family restaurant, now known as Bob & Angie’s Hometown Cafe, once before in the late 1990s.

They eventually got it back and they’ve worked hard to build up their downtown Clay City business ever since.

But now the Freemans would like to sell it again - primarily because of Bob’s heart and leg issues.

And this time they’ve found a unique way to do so.

They posted an entry form with rules for the “Bob & Angie’s Hometown Cafe Essay Contest” on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“Within four hours of posting it on Facebook, we had over a thousand views, which I was amazed at,” Angie Freeman told the Tribune-Star.

In short, the Freemans want potential buyers to mail them a 200-word essay explaining “why I would like to own and operate a restaurant” accompanied with $150 payable by cashier’s check or money order.

Individuals are allowed to send in multiple differently worded essays as long as they pay the entry fee each time.

Angie said they haven’t received any entries yet, but she doesn’t anticipate that lasting long.

“I don’t expect to see any until after the first of the month,” she noted. “I’ve had several people tell me they’re working on ‘em already.”

There is one slight catch. The Freemans would like a minimum of 1,000 entries in order to go through with the contest, although it is their right to continue with it even if they receive fewer than 1,000. In other words, if they get 988 entries, they’ll probably still declare a winner. If they get 440, probably not.

If after the Jan. 31, 2016, deadline for postmarked entries, they choose not to carry on with the contest because of too few entries, they guarantee they will return everyone’s check in the mail.

“The cashier’s checks and money orders will be kept in a lock box at the bank until the end of the contest,” promised Bob Freeman, a lifelong Clay City resident. “We don’t keep the money (if there is no contest(.”

“We decided we would give this a shot,” Angie said of the contest idea they came up with at the beginning of 2015.

“Bob had seen where a woman had done something similar to this with a bed-and-breakfast (in Maine.) So Bob said he would love nothing more than for somebody else to get that same opportunity.”

“She was trying to pay it forward,” Bob added. “She had a list of rules similar to what we’re doing.”

Bob said that if they receive enough entries, they’ll select the best 20 and turn them over to two independent judges not affiliated with the restaurant or the Wabash Valley to pick the grand-prize winner. They plan for the winner to receive the warranty deed to the property on or before Feb. 25, 2016.

“I’ve got to admit, that’s a little bit of a scary thought,” Bob said with a chuckle.

“It’s not giving it away to us,” Angie explained, “because if we get 1,000 entries at $150 apiece, we’re getting what we feel our restaurant is worth - $150,000. But to the person receiving it, it’s like we gave it away to them because he or she only paid $150.”

Complete rules, which should be read carefully before entering the contest, can be found on the Facebook page of Bob & Angie’s Hometown Café.

Another important point to remember from Angie Freeman: “If we don’t get the 1,000 entries, if we don’t give it to somebody else and if we return all the entry forms (and entry fees) - as stated in the rules and regulations - we are not closing. We’ll still be here. We’ll just rearrange things a little bit.”

Bob Freeman, 21 at the time, bought the business in July 1985 when it was known as the Firehouse Restaurant.

His wife, the former Angie Dryer, started working there as a night cook in 1987. They married in September 1989 and she became a co-owner of the restaurant with Bob.

“It was open at 5:30 in the morning ‘til 10 at night seven days a week,” he recalled.

They had it for 10½ years before they sold it on contract. That lasted roughly 1½ years.

In 1999, the Freemans took it back over and renamed it Bob & Angie’s Hometown Cafe.

“We kinda redid our hours, shortened them a little bit,” Angie said.

Bob said they’ve enjoyed their time as restaurant owners “very much,” so lack of interest in the business is not the reason they’re planning to sell it.

“We love the restaurant,” he insisted. “Almost all of our customers are in on a daily basis. We have a lot of people who come in and they’re just like family to me and to Angie as well. They’re all just real close to us. It’s going to be hard to leave everybody.”

Some of those customers indicated they’ll feel the same way if the restaurant changes hands.

Bowling Green resident Melody Culler, who works at Clay City High School, has been eating there about twice a week for at least 20 years. Her father used to own it under a different name in the late 1970s.

“It’ll be different,” she said. “It’ll be hard to get used to somebody different taking over the restaurant. … I’m kinda deep-down hoping they keep it.”

Despite that hope, Culler said there’s a possibility she might enter the contest because of her father’s background in the business. Stay tuned.

Another longtime customer is 85-year-old Guy Dickerson, a Clay City Town Council member who dines there about four or five days a week.

“It’s a good idea,” he said of the contest. “It’s a good way to get rid of something.”

Dickerson said he’d miss the Freemans as owners if they do sell, but he reserved judgment on what his new opinion of the restaurant will be if that happens.

“It would just depend on who owns it,” he said.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1O8ebhR

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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