Saturday, February 9, 2013
The Colony’s first restaurant, Larry’s, to change ownership after 34 years
There's a camaraderie that only Larry's can provide.
THE COLONY The Colony is saying goodbye to a community staple this week as the city's first restaurant is being sold to a new owner and Larry Culverhouse, its current owner, settles into retirement.
Larry's is the epitome of a small town restaurant. Regulars sip coffee and try to solve the world's problems, starting new ones before the day is done only to return the next day and start over again. While the doors remain open and customers can come in for a kingburger or a pineapple shake, the restaurant's namesake will no longer be there to greet customers.
Delbert Kleppe, Culverson's son-in-law, said Larry opened the restaurant in October 1978.
"I have been driving the same route to work everyday for the past 17 years, so it will be a change," he said. "He's also been in this business for 52 years. We had someone approach us out of the blue and ask if he wanted to sell. We started talking about it and decided it was the right thing to do."
Kleppe said the family will be front and center for a couple of weeks so the new owners can get into the swing of things. Though he was uncertain how long the family would be there to help out, he was certain that the menu would be staying the same.
It's not just family that will miss the daily routine of brewing coffee, making biscuits and gravy or even hearing the same songs on the jukebox. Residents of The Colony have been showing their support for Culverhouse since word of the sale started circulating. Sherman Gardner, pastor at Christ Community Church in The Colony, recognized Culverhouse last week along with part of his congregation and several community members.
"Larry's is a mom-and-pop place," he said. "It's become a staple of The Colony. A bunch of us would go there after church, and he helped us out a lot. If we needed something, he would donate this or that and was always there to help out. I've been going there every morning for the past five years. There's a camaraderie there that only Larry's can provide. It's part of the woodwork of the city."
Despite the community's connection to the restaurant, Gardner said Culverson told him to make sure everyone continues to patronize Larry's under its new owners.
"I just thought that was extremely gracious," he said. "Larry built that thing up for 34 years and I know he doesn't want to see it fail. With new owners you always wonder what they are going to change, and there's a lot that's up in the air, but all the old guys I have coffee with have all decided they're going to give the new owners a chance."
Being the city's oldest restaurant had its perks for employees. Take Rob Peak for example, who worked with Culverhouse at Larry's for 10 years, beginning when he was 16 years old. Peak said it was difficult to name a favorite memory but drew from the early years.
"On my first day after working a couple hours, I had asked Larry, 'When can I take a break?' Peak said. "Larry responded, 'Break? You got your break when you got the job.' Larry glared at me for a couple of seconds. Then he grinned real big and started to laugh. He said I would have a break in a little while, and I did. Larry is famous for his quips and laughter."
Tall tales of recent hunting and fishing trips were plentiful at Larry's, Peak said, but proof was needed before the story was believed.
"To back up your story," Peak said, "you had to bring in a photo to be put on display in the glass case at the front counter. Otherwise it was just that -- a tall tale."
But it wasn't just tall tales that were shared at Larry's, for many people it was the place for first glances, sheepish smiles, and a lasting love.
Peak met his wife of 27 years, Amy, at Larry's after she became a regular during afternoon coffee breaks. She said their life has come full circle thanks to a little help from the neighborhood hangout.
The couple's youngest son, David Peak, 20, also went to work at Larry's at the age of 16, where he met co-worker -- now fiancé -- Lindsey Bocanegra.
"The fondest memories were all about the friends and families I have met over the years while working at Larry's and after, when I was customer," Peak said. "Whether as an employee or those who were customers, we each got share little part of lives."
Though Culverhouse was contacted for an interview, as many residents of The Colony, friends, patrons, and family members know, he shied away from the attention and declined the interview.
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