OTTAWA — Red Pig Inn owners Richard and Paulette Schnipke are retiring after nearly 45 years and said the business’ success would not be possible without the help, love and support of their family, friends, former and current employees.
The Schnipkes will retire today, Richard’s birthday. The new owners are a local group of buyers who will remain anonymous. A new general manager will be named, according to Paulette.
“With us being here nearly 45 years it’s time to retire and take it easy for awhile,” Richard Schnipke said. The Schnipkes said they would like to thank their customers and current and former employees for what they described as “45 wonderful years.”
A private open house for family, friends, former and current employees attended by approximately 75 people was held Tuesday night at the business at 1470 N. Perry St. in Ottawa known for its barbecue.
The Schnipkes started the business in May 1975, and it has been a staple for barbecue in northwest Ohio for 37 years. Red Pig Inn has offered catering, banquets, lunch and dinner.
The business has earned numerous prestigious awards including The Lima News Best of The Region Best Place for Barbecue for 16 years, most recently the Ohio State Fair Rib Off Grand Champions and People’s Choice in 2017. Other awards have been Van Wert Rib Off People’s Choice Awards and People’s Choice Awards for Northwest Ohio Rib Cook Off and Best Restaurant Families of America in 2006 and Ohio Pork Restaurant of the Year. Their son, Ryan, competed in the National Pork Association Taste of Elegance and won the state competition. Red Pig Inn received the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year 2018 Award.
Schnipke family members and previous employees shared their favorite memories of the business over the years.
Renee Miller, the youngest of the three Schnipke children, recalled memories of Red Pig Inn.
“My parents opened the business before I was born. My youngest memories are wearing an apron and standing on a chair and washing dishes at the business,” Miller said. As Miller grew older her favorite thing was to serve as hostess at the restaurant and greeting and welcoming customers.
She said the restaurant has been a great part of the family’s identity. Miller has fond memories of driving the Red Pig Inn catering van to the Putnam County Airport for customers who would fly into Ottawa specifically to eat at the restaurant.
“The best part was enjoying watching people eat my dad’s food and the environment they created,” Miller said.
Rich Schnipke, the eldest son of the Schnipkes, also has positive memories he shared.
“I was 5 years old when my parents opened the business and remember life before The Red Pig Inn,” Rich said.
He said he remembers they were living in Columbus Grove and moved to Ottawa when he was in first grade when his parents purchased the business.
“When I was in high school my first job was to wash dishes. I used to be the waffle guy for the Sunday brunch and have done everything at the business except head cook,” Rich said. He has enjoyed bartending, waiting tables and hosting over the years and stopped working at the business when he was in his 20s when his personal career developed.
He loves to entertain guests at his home and said his father taught him those skills.
“My father and I share recipes, and food is our bonding and mutual interest,” Rich said.
Ryan Schnipke, the middle Schnipke son, followed in the footsteps of his parents by going to culinary school and becoming a chef.
“I started out as a cook all through high school at the Red Pig Inn and went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in South Carolina with hopes to take over the family business,” Ryan said. He came back after graduating college and worked at the restaurant as a chef.
The No. 1 seller at the business has always been ribs, but other favorites are barbecue pork and there used to be different themed Friday night buffets, Ryan said.
“I think it is pretty amazing that they have been owners for almost 45 years. The success they have had is shown by all of the awards they have won,” Ryan said. He thanks the past and present employees who have worked for the business and said he has made a lot of good friendships.
Former and current employees said they enjoyed working at the business.
Elyssa Moore, Richard and Paulette’s granddaughter, started working at The Red Pig Inn when she was in junior high.
“I started making salads and then was a buser, hostess, waitress, bartender and front of the house manager,” Moore said.
She remembers when she was in kindergarten through sixth grade she and her sister would ride the school bus to the Red Pig Inn.
Marlene Beckett, of Ottawa, was 25 years old when she started working at The Red Pig Inn. She was a waitress, manager and bartender.
“It was always fun working here. You always had a restaurant family on the weekends because you all worked together,” Beckett said. She said a young crew worked then and the Schnipkes were great people to work for.
Ben Warnimont, of Miller City, worked from 1978 to 1984 at Red Pig Inn as a dishwasher and cook. He cooked ribs for the Red Pig Inn rib contests and his brother Marty serves as a cook at the restaurant when needed. As a young boy he painted the dining room ceiling and helped remodel the kitchen and described the business as “a second home.”
“My family helped me cook the ribs and it was great spending time with them. We got to meet a lot of new people at the rib offs,” Warnimont said. He said it was always exciting to win the rib offs and it wasn’t work because it was fun. Warnimont said it was a pleasure to work with the Schnipkes.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.