Coming home, may not be the same as it used to be. Over the years, things change, people change. This is just what happened to the Pfleger family. Mary Jo Pfleger sold the last of her family’s businesses in Minford Tuesday, June 27. The significance of this may not seem important to some people, but to the people of Minford, this is the end of one era and the beginning of another.
The Pfleger family owned many businesses along State Route 139 in Minford throughout the years. Most people in Minford can attest to going in the grocery store, feed store, hardware store and eating at the Minford Dairy Bar. Over the years, the Pfleger’s sold each and everyone of them, except for the Minford Dairy Bar. Mary Jo, the only daughter of Ralph and Velda Pfleger has owned that Dairy Bar for 67 years, that is until last week, when she sold the business to Ryan and Jacinda Rader. The Raders had been leasing the Dairy Bar for the past 3 years.
Mary Jo’s grandpa, Floyd Pfleger, built the dairy bar building in 1950. Pfleger’s name was on that deed with her being only one year old at the time. A man named Ned Horton ran it for a year. Her grandpa didn’t sign the deed over to her parents, until 1989 however, but her name was still on the deed. Her parents ran it until her dad had a stroke.
“My mom and I were trying to run the Dairy Bar and all the other businesses along 139, the feed store, hardware store, grocery store; along with the Post Office building and apartment above there and it was just too much. My mother signed this side of the street over to me and she kept the other side, then she sold it to Twin Boys Trading Post,” said Mary Jo Pfleger.
Pfleger’s father died in ‘95 and eventually the businesses were all grandfathered in to Mary Jo’s name. She tried to keep everything going, but there was just too much. Mary Jo, then sold everything aside from the Dairy Bar.
In 1956, Lillian and Woody Johnson leased the Dairy Bar. Diane Harris, their daughter was 11. Ice cream cones were 5, 15, 25 cents then. They bought the equipment and ran it until 1980. Diane and her first husband, Charlie Truglio, began running it.
“It all turned out to be God’s plan because the steel mill closed down and Charlie lost his job, but we had the Dairy Bar to run and raise four kids. Then the kids began coming into work and at that time, you cashed in pop bottles and such, so my kids knew how to work,” said Diane Harris.
Harris says that the Raders have carried on this tradition and their kids picked up and they know how to work.
In 1944, her husband Charlie passed away.
“I ran it myself for a couple of years, then I remarried to Ron Harris and he stepped right in and he was the general handyman. When you run a place like this, you do everything,” explained Harris. “We took over in 1980 and my dad died in 1980, right here in the Dairy Bar. Charlie and my dad were working on the ice cream machine and the agitator had broke, so they had to have it soldered and Charlie went to get the belts needed and I heard the squad and it stopped quickly and I thought, ‘wow that’s real close as we lived just down the street from the Dairy Bar.’ Carolyn Gahm soon pulled into my driveway and said, ‘the squad is at the Dairy Bar and it’s your dad.’ I said, ‘he’s gone’ and she said she didn’t know that for sure. I said ‘he’s gone, my heart says he’s gone.’ Charlie pulled in right behind the squad. The employees had came in to open and they found him.”
Ron and Diane ran the Dairy Bar, until her second husband passed away. The Dairy Bar was in Diane’s family a total of 56 years.
Mary Jo chimed in, “That is what our fathers did back then, they worked until they went.”
As her father had had a stroke in the store across the street. Diane laughingly said she seriously thought that would be what would happen to her, that she would work til she died, but she decided to retire instead.
“None of our children really wanted to run the Dairy Bar, which she understood because when you are raised in it, you get to a point you are tired of the place,” said Harris.
Pfleger said she went to school to become a teacher, because she didn’t want to run the businesses her parents owned.
Harris reminisced about the employees and how that when her husband Ron got sick, she depended on them to help her run the place. And by the time he passed away, “I was really really tired. For 2 years after, I ran it 6 days a week and still made the hot dog sauce and did the books and payroll.” One night she was crying and she didn’t know what to do and she said it was as if God spoke to her and said, “You can retire,”and she said, “I can?”
She then put the Dairy Bar up for sale. She had determined that if Spring came and no one bought it, she just could not open it. “Then literally, God sent the Raders. There is no doubt that He did. It’s been a smooth ride every since then.”
She said she worked with the Raders two days and told Jacinda (Rader), “I’m not coming in tomorrow,” and Jacinda said, “Oh yes you are!”
She told the Raders, “I’ll be in Columbus, but I’ll have my cell phone. Jacinda said, “ you’ll be where?” She told them that they were naturals and had done food service before and they were doing great. They could call her if need be, but she wasn’t coming to help. Ryan still calls Diane and she still answers. Diane said if she would go in the Dairy Bar right now after 56 years, to make a milkshake, she could surely ‘blow one up’.
Both ladies (Pfleger and Harris), said that the Raders are part of this community and that it makes a difference. Diane said the last two years she ran the Dairy Bar, people thought she was an employee, not the one who ran the business and Pfleger said, “and of course no one knew I was the owner!”
Jacinda said that years ago they had stopped at the Dairy Bar to eat and Ryan said he would love to own it. And she laughed and told him, ‘oh that’s been in their hands for years, it will never be sold.’ Then one day, they saw a “for sale,” sign in the window. The Rader’s prayed about the decision, because they knew first hand just how difficult food service could be.
Ryan’s parents raised him in food service as soon as he graduated from high school, he bought his first trailer and started the Lemonade Shake-up stand in 2000 and it’s been 18 years that they’ve had the stand. They’ve expanded from there and this is their 3rd year at the Dairy Bar.
Jacinda says, “During the summers, Ryan does the fairs and the kids and I stay here to run the Dairy Bar.” Ryan says he comes home at least a day on the weekend before moving to his next destination. He did say that he was never so far away that he could not come home in an hour or so, if something goes wrong.
They then brought up that Diane willed them their maintenance man, Butch Buckle. They all said they had to have Butch as part of their story. Ryan says that he has been a huge help. “He has taught me about every piece of equipment in here, from the ice cream machine to the hot dog steamers.” Mary Jo said that if they are thinking of putting on a roof or whatever, they’d always say, “we’ll ask Butch.” Diane said when Ron was ill and died , she wouldn’t have made it without Butch. Butch has a family connection, as he was Diane’s husband Ron’s nephew. And then, the Raders inherited him.
One of the hardest parts they all said about running the Dairy Bar is just working with employees as in any business, kids want weekends off, evenings off, and vacations. Jacinda said she had 60 kids apply this summer wanting a job. We’ve been fortunate, that we have a crew that for the most part want to work. No one wants to work full time, but for the most part they try and get things right.
The Raders say that they have never regretted the three years that they have ran the Dairy Bar and Diane has never regretted giving it up. Mary Jo claimed that it was only bittersweet for her, because it was the last piece of Minford, her family owned after 67 years.
Reach Kim Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928.