OTTAWA — When Ottawa residents learned that their iconic restaurant, the Red Pig Inn, was going to close in April, they expressed their sadness on Facebook.
When they learned in May the restaurant would be bulldozed to build a Taco Bell, they shared their fury on the social media site.
On Friday, they learned the Red Pig Inn will rise again, and they were jubilant online.
“As soon as we heard Taco Bell was not going to move here, we knew we wanted to run the Red Pig Inn,” said Anissa Musil, one of the restaurant’s new owners. “It has a great legacy, and we want to build on that legacy.”
The new owners hope to reopen the purveyor of pork products and barbecued eats sometime in October. For now, new owners Bruce Benroth, Kyle Benroth, Anissa Musil and Nathan Musil are revelling in a dream come true for the buyers and community alike.
“When I heard the Red Pig was for sale again, I knew we had to make it happen,” said Kyle Benroth, of Columbus Grove. “We’re from Putnam County. Is there anything more Putnam County than the Red Pig?”
Anissa Musil, another Putnam County native now living in Columbus Grove, added, “We knew before we left here this was the one we wanted.”
The restaurant, located at 1470 N. Perry St., Ottawa, had an eventful couple of years that took residents on a roller coaster ride. Richard and Paulette Schnipke founded the restaurant in 1975 and ran it through October 2019, when they announced their retirement.
Then a local group of entrepreneurs took it over. They renovated the 9,000-square foot building, showing off an expanded bar area with modern flat-screen TVs in May 2020. The following two years were tough, as they struggled to deal with COVID-19’s impact and problems finding quality workers.
The new owners aim to bring the restaurant back to the one that won so many awards, including 18 years as Best Place for Barbecue winner in The Lima News’ Best of the Region. They’re bringing Richard Schnipke back part-time to teach them the tricks of the trade and use his “wealth of knowledge,” Kyle Benroth said.
“The heart of the Red Pig is coming back,” he said.
The Red Pig Inn will return to some of its original ways, including casual family dining to the left when you first walk in and a bar side to the right, instead of a combined concept tried by the previous owners.
“We’re going to go back to the Red Pig’s roots, but we’ll have a little bit of our own different direction in it,” Kyle Benroth said.
They’ll lean into sports bar ideas, too, with plans to provide the NFL Sunday Ticket on the 12 large-screen TVs there. They’ll offer wings, burgers and some Italian foods in addition to the legendary ribs.
The Musils will run the business day to day. They are no strangers to restaurant work. You might say they fell in love with it — and each other — while working at LuLu’s in Lima, which is owned by Nathan’s brother and his sister-in-law. When that restaurant expanded to Bluffton, they went there to help start it up, with Nathan working in the back and Anissa working up front.
Now they’re married, have six children ranging in age from 4 to 20 with two sets of twins and a restaurant to revive.
“It’s good to have a strong family atmosphere running a restaurant,” Kyle Benroth said.
Benroth will provide business knowledge, after successfully growing the local Bruster’s and Four Seasons car washes before selling all but two of them off.
They’re also bringing back a Red Pig tradition, of putting seasonal outfits on the large red pig statue outside the restaurant.
“We actually made an offer on the first night we were here,” Kyle Benroth said. “We needed a little time to converse, and when I called them back, I said, ‘Yeah, we want to make an offer, but it’s contingent upon getting the outfits for the pig.’”
That statue and its dressing might be the Musil children’s favorite part of the venture.
“My kids are excited to paint the pig,” Anissa Musil said. “They watched the video that we have posted out there. And they were like, ‘You painted the pig without us!’ I said, ‘No, we’re just putting a sold sign up. I promise you’ll get to paint the pig.’”
Once that’s done and the staff’s ready to go, the community that sorely missed the restaurant will be ready to pig out once again.
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