BOWLING GREEN — Stan Kaufman, who over a span of decades turned a downtown tavern into a celebrated local dining spot, died Tuesday at Fort Lauderdale Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 89.
Pam Heringhaus, Mr. Kaufman's daughter, said he had been diagnosed with lung and bone cancer only about a week before his passing and had been in good health for his age up until then.
In 1951, Mr. Kaufman and his wife, Blanche, bought a tavern at 163 S. Main St. and began serving home-cooked meals along with serving alcoholic beverages. Twenty-five years later, that 60-seat establishment had grown to fill five rooms with seating for 320 diners and had become a centerpiece of downtown Bowling Green.
"It was the place to go," Mrs. Heringhaus said, distantly echoing a 1990 Blade review stating in part, "For as long as anyone can remember, Kaufman's has been synonymous with dining out in Bowling Green."
Mr. Kaufman had run bar-and-grills in nearby Weston and Custar, and the family business would grow to include the restaurant at Bowling Green Country Club, Kaufman's at the Lodge — in the Holly Lodge hotel on East Wooster Street near I-75 — and part ownership of two bars, Howard's and the Redwood, also in Bowling Green.
For a few years during the mid-1970s, he also operated the Texan Steakhouse in Fort Lauderdale. He and Blanche Kaufman, who died in 1973, and his second wife, Annetta Kaufman, established a second home in nearby Plantation, Fla., which Mrs. Heringhaus said became his permanent home about six years ago.
The Kaufman family sold its flagship restaurant in 1997 and it now is SamB's.
Born to Louie and Philomina Kaufman near the Putnam County hamlet of New Cleveland, Ohio, in 1923, Mr. Kaufman moved with his family to nearby Leipsic after his father lost his farm during the Great Depression. Mr. Kaufman played football in high school.
He joined the steelworkers' union after graduation and sought work at Appalachian steel plants before enlisting in the Navy, in which he served in the SeaBee construction battalions during World War II. Mrs. Heringhaus said that, like many young soldiers and sailors, her father married her mother just before he was deployed overseas from his stateside base in Rhode Island.
After his military discharge, he followed his father's footsteps into the tavern-keeping business. Mrs. Heringhaus said Mr. Kaufman's big break occurred when he was chosen by the new Holiday Inn in Bowling Green to operate its restaurant, and the hotel chain sent him to corporate hospitality training.
"He got a lot more fine-dining-type training," she said.
Although the Holiday Inn relationship lasted for just five years before a new local owner replaced him, the daughter said, the experience encouraged him to start expanding his own restaurant, which he did by buying a neighboring building.
Mrs. Heringhaus, who with her brother, Anthony, often managed Kaufman's when her father was in Florida, said her parents thrived in the restaurant business because of their congenial personalities.
"They just thoroughly enjoyed people, and they easily made friends and made people feel like they were part of the family," she said, adding that his off-hours preferences for golf and cards with friends also were extensions of her father's outgoing personality.
During the early years of his operation, Mr. Kaufman often sparred with leaders at nearby Bowling Green State University who wanted to ban alcoholic drinks in the city.
But he became a strong supporter of BGSU, especially its arts and athletics programs, Mrs. Heringhaus said.
He also was active in many civic groups, including the Elks, the Falcon Club, and the local chamber of commerce, and was a founding member of the local Lions Club.
He was a member of St. Gregory and St. Aloysius churches and helped establish the latter's school.
Mr. Kaufman is survived by his wife of 36 years, Annetta; son, Anthony Kaufman; daughter, Pam Heringhaus; stepchildren Suzie Paul, Michael Farnham, Cathy Moyal, and Larry Leathers; nine grandchildren, seven stepgrandchildren, and seven step-great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Blanche; a son, Keith; and four brothers and a sister.
A memorial service will start at 11 a.m. Monday in the Ralph Funeral Home, Plantation, and a Celebration of Life event is planned for Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. in the Bowling Green Country Club.
The family suggests tributes to the Wood County Humane Society, Wood County District Public Library, or BG Pee Wee League.