From guest blogger, Vicki VanNatta
For some of you, 1969 was ‘before your time’….way before your time. For some of you, 1969 was part of the ‘good old days’ — dating, less responsibility and more fun – and those great cars: Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac GTO, the Ford Mustang. Others were in the throes of raising your children, dealing with how long your teenage son’s sideburns were, making sure his hair didn’t touch his collar. And were your daughter’s skirts down to her fingertips when her arms were at her sides? Infractions meant they would be sent home from school or reprimanded. Wearing slacks or jeans to school? Forget about it. It wasn’t happening. It was a different time in Walnut Creek, Ohio.
What was happening in Walnut Creek, Ohio in 1969
In 1969, Dan and Shirley Lehman had just partnered with Emanuel Mullet and Bob and Sue Miller to purchase Der Dutchman Restaurant on the square in Walnut Creek. I was a teenager, and I began my very first job as a dishwasher at Der Dutchman Restaurant. A paycheck! I earned a paycheck!
Bert and Emma Hershberger had started the small 75-seat restaurant in what was previously a hardware store. The business was doing well, but if you’ve ever been in the restaurant business, you know the demands put on your time and energy can be draining. It was those demands that led Bert and Emma to sell Der Dutchman Restaurant to Dan Lehman, Emanuel Mullet and Bob Miller, owners of Dutch Corporation, formed for the specific purpose of purchasing the Restaurant.
It started with one restaurant
Forty-five years later, that 75-seat restaurant is now a 650-seat restaurant that has undergone six major renovations and expansions. What was once known as Dutch Corporation is now Dutchman Hospitality Group, and that ‘group’ includes two Carlisle Inns, six gift shops, a retail food market, a wholesale food and hospitality supply company, live theater productions, and not just one 650-seat restaurant, but six, with locations in Ohio and Sarasota, Florida, plus a sister location in Middlebury, Indiana.
45 years later…still the same traditions
Forty-five years later, high school freshmen boys might have their hair below their shirt collar and most girls are wearing jeans and shorts to school, but Der Dutchman Restaurant is still on the square in Walnut Creek. Der Dutchman is still serving real mashed potatoes, delicious pan-fried chicken, dressing, noodles and more than twenty kinds of pie. Their traditional menu hasn’t changed, but at each Dutchman Hospitality restaurant you will find a variety of menu items including delicious salads, stir fry, and salmon plus other regional and local favorites – just in case you aren’t craving mashed potatoes on any given day.
Relax, visit with each other
What you won’t find is a large screen TV over your head in the dining room. You won’t find loud music playing and you won’t find a bar. But you will find a place where you can sit down, look across the table and actually have a conversation about the day or just quietly relax and enjoy. Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops, and inns are all about fellowship and food around the table, a sense of peace and comfort during an overnight getaway, and delightful shopping for your home, your friends, and your family.
Continuing to grow and adapt
Forty-five years later, I’m not washing dishes at Der Dutchman, but Dutchman Hospitality continues to grow and serve the six communities they now call home. Throughout the annual seasons, Dutchman Hospitality employs approximately 1300 individuals who speak a variety of languages; arriving from many parts of the US and the world, Dutchman Hospitality employees work together each day to make sure everyone eating at their tables, staying at their inns, and shopping in their shops enjoys the traditional foods, simple comforts, and rural charm of the Midwestern Amish and Mennonite communities.
Dutchman Hospitality remembers 1969 as the year it all began. No matter where you were that year, 2014 is good year to visit any of the Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops or inns. Bring a friend, your family, or your neighbors. Gather ‘round. It’s time to make some memories of your own.