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Family and food: A Schwartz specialty

April 15, 2009
The new road between Interstate 64 and French Lick — Frank O'Bannon Highway (S.R. 37) — took in a portion of a field owned by Joe and Edna Schwartz near Eckerty. After the road was built, they decided to use the rest of the field as a site for a new restaurant.

Five of their seven sons and one cousin, who work as carpenters, got out their tools and set to work building the structure. A few months later, they put their tools away and the Schwartz Family Restaurant was ready for business.

The last week in March, the Schwartz family decided to do a couple of practice runs and invited their whole extended family to come, try out the food and give the crew a chance to hone their skills at, not only cooking, but working the cash register, keeping glasses filled at the tables and being available for any help customers may need. More than 100 people showed up.

A week or so later, they invited friends, neighbors and even some area firefighters to the restaurant for another practice run. This time, about 250 people showed up.

"That helped us get ready to open," Edna Schwartz, who owns the restaurant with husband Joe, said. "For a while, I was wondering why we did this. It has been a lot of work already, just getting the building ready. It took a lot longer than we anticipated. But the last couple of weeks, it started coming together."

And customers began showing up. On opening day, April 1, business was steady as people, just by word of mouth, learned that the restaurant was open and came to sample the food. The Schwartz family, who make up most of the restaurant workforce, was glad the customers came at a pace that allowed them time to measure the amount of food needed to be prepared and to fine-tune the workers.

"We haven't advertised at all," Edna said. "We didn't have any idea how many people would come once we opened. We were concerned about being able to handle a large crowd, but it's working out fine — actually, better than I thought it would."

There's still a little work to be done at the facility, and the family already has planned changes.

"I want to build more oak tables," Joe, who also has a wood shop and a large greenhouse nearby, said.

"And, as soon as the weather gets a little better, I plan to enlarge the parking area here."

The following Saturday evening, the need to do that was clear as every parking space at the restaurant was full.

"I took my wife and mother-in-law there to eat last Saturday," Jim Montgomery said. "The place was packed. There were no empty parking spots and people were lined up all the way into a meeting room there and out the door. I think some people even left because the place was so busy and they didn't want to wait.

"It was really obvious that a restaurant like this is needed in this end of the county. It's a great location. And the Schwartz family are such wonderful people. I'm sure they'll do well there."

The cooking staff at the restaurant includes Edna, two of her daughters and a niece (Emma), and they hired Sherry Curl to help. The rest of the staff is made up mainly of the Schwartz siblings who range in age from 9 to 24. Everyone in the family does their part to make the business a success.

On opening night, the menu at the cafeteria-style restaurant consisted of meat loaf, chicken or pork chops and there were several vegetable and potato choices. There was fresh bread made by Edna and honey butter to go with it. (The dessert section included blueberry pie that this reporter would walk miles for.)

The Schwartz greenhouse will supply many of the vegetables and salad needs of the restaurant, ensuring the best in freshness and the lowest in pesticide and insecticide use.

The restaurant also offers sandwiches and french fries and fills carry-out orders. It also serves breakfast and has a meeting room that will seat up to 50 people.

Hours are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

For more information, call 338-9000.

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