A look back at the history of a Main Street staple, now for sale
By John Anderson,
One of the best parts of living in a large, yet small community like Wellsville is being able to walk into any of our restaurants and see a friendly face and feel at home, not at a business.
One of these places is the Beef Haus. That’s why I got a lump in my throat when I saw a for sale sign at the Beef Haus.
From the historic booths and unique rooms and banquet hall to the popular 8-person round table in the middle of the dining room and the famous beef bar cutting station, I couldn’t imagine life without the Beef Haus.
A few years ago, the Insley family did some renovations, moving the bar in the back to the front. The “bones” and history of the building came to life. The facade outside was also refurbished. For a few weeks, people drove by just to see the old Hall Drugs Store sign.
And that’s an interesting part of Wellsville history.
Is there anything more iconic in Wellsville than the Pink House? I talked to the owners last year, Jay and Kristy Woelfel about the “recipe” for the pink paint. It’s guarded like Texas Hot’s sauce. The paint combination was created in the Beef Haus, specifically upstairs what is now the banquet room.
When the restaurant at 176 North Main Street was Halls Drug Store, there was a paint department upstairs. It became Williams Drug Store but then the restaurant took shape.
Maybe someone will remember the first name, it was an Italian restaurant, but then, like the Texas hot down the street, became a Greek restaurant and called Spiro’s Greek Restaurant.
In 1978, Tim Torrey opened the Beef Haus on Main Street while Spiro’s was still open. In 1984, an electrical fire destroyed the storage area and kitchen. Wellsville residents were surprised to see Spiro’s close on a Friday and re-open as the Beef Haus on a Monday.
A lot of places have downsized over the years. The Beef Haus has expanded. The Willow Room opened because of the crowds and is still used today as a second dining room, a place for family gatherings, banquets and more. Another favorite room is the “Balloon Room” which is also the perfect place for a private family gathering or meeting with great food and drinks. It’s interesting how those rooms never closed over the years as Wellsville has supported the restaurant.
Bob Insley and Tim Quinn purchased the Beef Haus in 1991 and the upstairs banquet hall was perfected. For years, high school dances and wedding receptions took place upstairs. Today, banquets are very common. Tim sold his part of the restaurant in 1997 and a fun partnership started with shares owned by Bob Insley, Sam Davenport, Rich English, and Deb Insley. For years when people came in and wanted to talk to the owner, they were greeted with “that would be me.”
Bob and Tracy Insley have had the restaurant for the past few decades, and Bob’s sister Deb has been a staple. Deb is a mastermind in the kitchen and has been a friendly face during busy lunch hours.
Like the Beef Haus “round table.” Most restaurants have a special booth or table in the back. At the Beef Haus, each night, reservations are made for the eight-person round, in which customers walk past to the left or right to get into the restaurant. It’s the table you know at LEAST one person at and stop to say hi.
But back to Bob and Tracy Insley. They have made sure the restaurant was a community partner. And not just by donations. Bob has served on every board possible and when he wants to make a change, he joins. Like being on the board of directors at the chamber. When he sees a void, he acts. He started the Little Dribbler’s program, coached every youth team and is a voice of reason each day when elected officials come through the door to eat.
For years when I would bring someone new into the Beef Haus, I would stop at the beef bar and ask for the sample plate before our drinks arrived. The chef would always look at me strange (sample plate? When did we start a sample plate?) then asked how I wanted it. In addition to a meal, you would go back for more and order the beef plate.
I think we all have our favorite Beef Haus stories. And the restaurant still has the regulars. I wondered once how Bob knew what to serve and how many staff to have on. Years ago, he took me into the back office and pulled out a ledger. It reminded me of the old leather-bound ledger the state police used to record arrests at the Wellsville barracks. He could turn back to any day of any year and see how many people came in, how much food they needed. It was old-school, but it shows how the community supports local businesses over the years.
Having a strong background in hospitality, starting with the Wellsville Country Club, Bob had an opportunity at a young age how restaurants were run with success in this community. He was able to add his own unique ideas and turn it into a high-end restaurant families could enjoy and afford.
Bob smiles when I ask him why he is selling. He says “It’s time.” He’s right. Like the Wellsville Brewing Company, L’Italia, WCC, Modern Diner, there are places that change ownership and it’s great to see the next generation of families or friends who take over and keep tradition going.
And when the Beef Haus does, I’ll make sure to let the new owners know I’m grandfathered into the sample plate from the beef bar!
Stay tuned for the full featured listing of the Beef Haus from New York Landquest!