By Dave Pearce
The family of Bob and Bambi Deig have purchased Weinzapfel’s in St. Philip. The long-standing store, gas station, and pub in St. Philip, was bought in an effort to keep it in the family. But more importantly for the Deigs, the store has been ‘home’ for many of life’s events over the past few years. Former co-owner Mary Weinzapfel is Bob’s sister so to say ‘new’ owners could be a little deceptive. Perhaps ‘changed ownership’ might be a more accurate description.
“We’re keeping it all in the family, we’re just hopping over the fence,” Bambi Deig said with an infectious smile and chuckle. “I think it is fourth generation for the Weinzapfels and while we’re all still related, it looks like it is heading toward the Deigs.”
Family friends Chris Weinzapfel and Todd Reddington brought their big grill to Weinzapfel’s on Saturday evening and from 5 until 7 (actually more like 9 p.m.) the inside grill was closed as friends and members of the community helped the Deig family celebrate their new endeavor by partaking in some of the tasty food and beverages available.
“It has taken a little while because it was time for Jim and Mary to retire and they were trying to figure out how to do it,” said Bambi. “They brought it up to us back in December and with the state having to have all their paperwork, it just took time to get all those things in line.”
But with the smiles on the faces of the patrons of the community-gathering place on Saturday evening, you wouldn’t know that there had been a change. And that’s just the way the Deig’s want it.
“Weinzapfel’s Tavern has always been a place where people can come and relax. There are not going to be plate lunches unless we decide to have something special. But it is going to be bar food but we will probably add some healthier items like turkey burgers and turkey tenderloins that they can have on wheat buns,” Weinzapfel explained. “We also want to introduce some types of salads, whether it is a wedge or house salad.”
The grill will also begin opening again for breakfast at 7 a.m. The restaurant portion will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But if anyone is aware of the fact that we know very little of what the future holds, it is the Deigs. Bob has spent time as a state senator and was defeated in his bid for state representative. The couple was involved in a critical automobile accident a few years ago that involved extensive rehab for Bambi. And the most recent and by far the most tragic event of their lives was the loss of their oldest child, Becky, who died unexpectedly about a year ago at age 30.
“Who knows what the future holds but we would like to expand and make an outside area within a year or two, but really, we want Weinzapfel’s to be very much the same type of community place it has always been,” Deig said. “When the kids are done playing ball down on the ball diamonds, we want the families to come in here, grab their hamburgers and relax and cool off. We want people to come in and have a good time and entertainment and just continue the close-knit community place it has always been.”
But just as in all family-owned businesses, it will take everyone to keep the business afloat. Bambi plans to open while her daughter-in-law Amber will be the general manager in the evenings after around 3:30.
“Bob and Amber will kind of close things down at night and my niece, Karen, is here working with me,” Bambi explained. “Brittney (also a daughter) got her initiation this week so on Thursdays and every other Saturday, I will get the best of both worlds. On Brittney’s days, I will get to be at Weinzapfel’s during the day and keep my grandbabies at night. You just can’t beat that.”
So if plans hold out, what might be win the works?
“It’s only going to get better. We would like to open the convenience store again but that is probably six months down the road,” she said.
There will be on-site security provided by whomever decides to live in the apartment(s) above the store. And the Deig’s son Brandon, an Indiana State Policeman, will also be around to help when needed.
So what has attracted a former state representative and his family to a business in St. Philip?
“As we starting getting older (and Bob and I are both over 50), we have mulled it over the past few years of having a job that he and I could do together,” she explained. “I used to work here in 1998 when Bob and I had our automobile accident. I was having seizures and couldn’t drive. I was going through physical therapy and speech therapy because I had a brain injury. Mary let me come up here to Weinzapfel’s Tavern and let me stock the shelves in the grocery store to help me with repetition. I turned all the labels the right way and had to match all the food up on the right shelves. And then, as time went on, I was able to do number recognition for the pricing gun. Of the three years of therapy that I had, I really attribute a lot of my recovery to the year-and-a-half that I spent up here.”
Both of the Deig’s daughters worked part-time in the store when they were growing up as they balanced school activities with jobs.
“We’ve had celebrations up here and we have met here after defeats,” Deig explained. “It is just that family atmosphere. And then, when Becky died last year…it is what it is when you go through the grieving process. I needed to be someplace where I could laugh and where the world isn’t so serious. Becky had really, really been all for us doing this a year ago when we were talking about it. And it has been exactly what the doctor ordered for me.”
A plaque was presented to Gary and Mary Weinzapfel for their many years of service to the community and as a token of the appreciation the Deigs have for the Weinzapfels, they presented one of the old original Weinzapfel’s Tavern signs to the couple, complete with autographs of many members of the community and those in attendance at the grand opening.
If Saturday evening’s grand opening is any indication, the new owners of Weinzapfel’s Tavern in St. Philip are in for a long, successful run.
By Dave Pearce
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