VAN WERT — The view of 83-year-old Dale Davies bustling around behind the counter at Balyeat’s Coffee Shop is a familiar sight for many in Van Wert.
However, that may soon cease to be the case.
After about 70 years at Balyeat’s Coffee Shop, Davies is signing off and retiring. He’s hoping to sell the coffee shop at an auction next month, preferably to someone who will keep the shop open and carry on the tradition, said Phil Fleming, a real estate agent with Straley Realty.
Davies has owned the coffee shop for 51 years, and worked at it for several before that. He’s offered Van Wert residents and those just passing through a taste of homemade cooking they crave.
Davies has “been behind the counter serving up mashed potatoes and noodles for quite a few years,” Fleming said.
Davies, his wife, Marcia, and his brother, Don, are working with Straley Realty to host open houses and find a buyer for when the building goes up for auction in November, Fleming said.
There are two more open houses, one on Nov. 2 and the other on Nov. 16, both from 1 to 5 p.m. at the restaurant, at 133 E. Main St.
The auction will be at the Marsh Hotel, across the street from Balyeat’s, at 3 p.m. Nov. 23. Fleming said on Wednesday that there had been an offer made on the restaurant, but nothing had been finalized.
The auction is absolute, meaning everything in the building will go, all the equipment, fixtures and the building, which measures about 3,000 square feet in the restaurant and kitchen area, Fleming said.
There is also potentially financial assistance or funding available “for someone that would keep it open in the same fashion,” Fleming said.
Don Farmer, the Van Wert mayor, said if the restaurant closes it will be a time of adjustment for the town.
“I frequent Balyeat’s for coffee a lot in the mornings,” Farmer said. Davies’ “input will be missed. … I give him so much credit.”
HEART AND SOUL
The restaurant has been Davies’ “whole life,” Fleming said, but it’s also meant a lot to the city as a whole.
“It’s not only an institution to the city, it’s an anchor in downtown Van Wert. It’s been a staple for all these years, since 1924, for 90 years plus,” Fleming said. “If you wanted a place to go and get a true home-cooked meal this was the place to come.”
Davies started working at the restaurant in 1945 and bought it “because it was for sale,” he said.
The restaurant employs about 20 people and serves food such as Swiss steak, meat loaf, Salisbury steak, chicken, ham and beans, sausage, kraut, soup, homemade pie and more, Davies said.
“It hasn’t ever changed; it’s still the same,” Davies said of the restaurant, which was opened in 1924 by the Balyeat brothers and from whom Davies later bought it in 1962.
Bill Straley, owner of Straley Realty, said the restaurant is the “heart and soul of downtown” Van Wert.
“It’s the heartbeat of downtown; the soul of downtown, it really is.”
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.