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Published: Monday, 11/17/2003

Family eatery rides into sunset

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Long-time customer Irene Papenfus, left, wishes restaurant co-owner Deanna Heintschel good luck in her retirement. Long-time customer Irene Papenfus, left, wishes restaurant co-owner Deanna Heintschel good luck in her retirement.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

A lot of “last suppers” are taking place these days at the 4-E Ranch House restaurant in South Toledo.

And last lunches. And last breakfasts.

The family-run restaurant, a haven of home-style cuisine for area residents for the last 36 years, is preparing to close its doors forever on Nov. 26.

That s sad news for Carol Walker, 68, who left yesterday afternoon not knowing if she d ever make it back. Fortunately, she was able to take some homemade pie home with her.

“After you eat a nice meal, this is a good supper,” she said, referring to the pie.

The restaurant, situated at 3428 Airport Hwy. near Byrne Road, is a landmark for many. It has been owned by Phil and Deanna Heintschel since 1967, when they took over the former Harrison s Ranch House. But with concerns about an exhausting lifestyle and slowing business, the family has decided to close the facility.

While working the cash register and chatting with patrons yesterday, Mrs. Heintschel, 66, said she doesn t know what she ll do next. “Retirement doesn t sound like fun,” she said. “I ve been in the restaurant business all my life.”

Mrs. Heintschel, who has a master s degree in history from the University of Toledo, was working on her doctorate in the subject when her father said he needed her help at his restaurant, Linck s Cafeteria.

She s been at it ever since, naming the restaurant she runs with her husband after the four daughters they had at the time: Elaine, Emily, Edie, and Elizabeth. A fifth E, Erika, was born later.

A life-size replica of a horse and buggy out front and the decor inside reflect the Heintschel family's interests. A life-size replica of a horse and buggy out front and the decor inside reflect the Heintschel family's interests.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

The food is classic home-style fare, featuring selections such as Swiss steak and mashed potatoes.

“The potatoes are not instant - ever,” Mrs. Heintschel said. “We re wholesome, good food that s good for you.”

The decor reflects the family s love of horses - they ve owned a number of them - and there s a life-size replica of a horse and buggy out front.

“It s part of Toledo,” said long-time patron Brian Meeker, 58, of Maumee. He said he comes for the family-style food and the atmosphere. “The area s changed, but it s still a nice place.”

Changes in the business climate were a reason one of Mrs. Heintschel s daughters, Elaine Deaton, 43, decided it was time to call it quits. She s worked at the restaurant since she was 10.

“Mostly slow business, and I m exhausted,” Elaine said.

Business has been tepid for the last couple of years, in part, she believes, because a number of nearby companies have moved elsewhere.

Another daughter, Emily Meyers, said she s just looking forward to a change. “I want to do something else,” she said. “It s been my whole life.”

Councilman Wilma Brown (D., District 1) said the restaurant is a treasure that people will miss and hopes someone will be interested in buying it.

“I wish they weren t moving out,” she said.



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