- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

WAPELLO, Iowa (AP) - After a hiatus of about six years, an iconic restaurant along U.S. 61 in Wapello has reopened with menu favorites and a few decorative changes. The Dairy Bar was a fixture in the Louisa County burg for decades, and Jeff Ashby has resurrected it under the new name - Wapello Dairy Bar.

Sue Rollinger, the previous owner of the Dairy Bar, closed up shop in 2010, and since the building had been host to a pizza place and a sandwich shop.

“She had no desire to go back in business,” said Ashby, who worked for Rollinger a year back in 2008.

Rollinger put the building up for sale and received a rather low bid from an interested party.

“Half jokingly I’ll buy it for that,” Ashby said.

The conversation turned serious. Ashby, a Wapello native, who had lived in Chicago since 1995, bought the building and went about remodeling the interior much the way the Dairy Bar looked back in the day.

The Hawk Eye (https://bit.ly/28OrZOV ) reports that Ashby grew up with the Dairy Bar, often frequenting the place during his high school days as a Wapello Indian. There might have been an occasion or two where he skipped class to get a hamburger or shake at the highway eatery.

“I remember coming here every day,” Ashby said. “It’s passed through hands many times.”

After he graduated from Wapello High School in 1987, Ashby earned an associates degree at Southeastern Community College’s West Burlington campus.

In 1994, he became the first store manager of the Blockbuster store in Burlington. That success led him to a career with Blockbuster in Chicago from 1995 to 2006. During that span he opened 30 Blockbuster stores in the Chicago market.

He eventually went back to school to earn bachelor degrees in political science and history from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

He thought about teaching, but instead worked for an Italian restaurant chain in Chicago for several years, handling management and customer service duties.

In 2012, Ashby started a dog walking business with a partner called Chicago Jaywalkers. It became a success, and he is in the middle of selling his share of the business now that he has moved back to Wapello.

Ashby had been Rollinger’s friend for 25 years, so the building transaction went fairly smooth.

Ashby made it a point to retain some Dairy Bar items, plus add his own Wapello touch to the restaurant. The interior, painted by Craig Jacoba, is colored in Indian and Arrow blue and yellow.

“He painted 48 hours straight,” Ashby said.

A scoreboard, originally from West Branch, was obtained from the Just 2 Moms store in Wapello and placed on the north wall. It was painted Wapello blue.

The original Dairy Bar stools were obtained, and “I had them recovered,” Ashby said.

Patrons over the years signed their names to the underside of the stools.

The original counter, also was repurposed, and placed in its original spot. Barack Obama sat at the counter when running for the presidency in 2008.

“He swept the whole place,” Ashby said as the presidential hopeful at the time put in a little work. “Sue made him an ice cream cone.”

Ashby has brought back a few traditional food items as well. The Big Steve burger is back, which is a takeoff of McDonalds Big Mac, as it is made with two beef patties, three buns and a secret thousand island sauce.

“Pizza and burgers were a tradition, too,” Ashby said of the Dairy Bar.

The Wapello Burger is a loose meat sandwich similar to a Maid Rite and also a fan favorite.

On the ice cream side of the business, shakes are a popular item. Ashby stuck with tradition there too as the Dairy Bar used fresh ice cream, and he has Anderson Erickson deliver twice a week. The Flurry, the eatery’s version of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, also is popular with the cookie dough version the most requested.

One area where the Wapello Dairy Bar got an upgrade was the kitchen with a new grill and new fryers.

Rather than come inside, some customers still order at the west window facing the highway. Ashby plans to add a couple of picnic tables to the facility’s north side, which received a new concrete slab.

Ashby opened June 9, and already has had plenty of high school students as customers, plus patrons who worked at the Dairy Bar over the years.

“They wanted the Dairy Bar back so bad,” Ashby said.

Ashby’s staff of eight largely consists of high school students.

With the Wapello Dairy Bar, Ashby hopes to create a lot of new hometown memories for residents, while also serving those travelers making their way through town on U.S. 61.

___

Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide