Old truck stop transformed into cafe, artists studio
PERKINSVILLE, Ind. (AP) – It’s Friday night, just after a high school football game and Neal, along with a few buddies, headed over to the Wheelers truck stop – their weekly ritual.
The truck stop was a hangout for local kids looking for a cheap burger and soda, sandwiched between two cornfields at the intersection of Indiana 37 and East 256th Street in Hamilton County.
As the group piled into a booth under the restaurant’s center window Neal looked out and saw his girlfriend, Angie, pull up at the stop sign outside in her battered pickup truck.
“This is the perfect gal, and I remember thinking ‘I’m going to marry her someday,’” Neal said.
That was 22 years ago.
Neal and Angie Fine are looking out that same window since they recently opened Wheelers Cafe & Market, the improbable next step of two decades of marriage that began with a boy’s silent lovesick wish.
The cafe is one-half of the Mercantile 37 project headed by JR Roudebush and his son, Nick Roudebush, to continue the story of the building that began in 1940 when Cecil Scott and his wife, both relatives of Emma Roudebush, opened Scotty’s Inn.
“The history here is a long story, and every day that story gets bigger – everybody in this community has a story in this building,” Angie Fine said. “Every day as we’ve been working on this someone will walk in with: ‘remember when . remember when .’”
The two families are working toward writing the building’s next chapter with a complete remodel of the old Wheelers Restaurant – part high-quality cafe and part custom artists studio and antique furniture maker selling wares from 25 artists, more than half living within a mile drive of the shop.
“We really want this to be a destination shop – the perfect day is you stop by for coffee and breakfast, go over and shop for a few hours and then come back for a great sandwich for lunch,” Angie Fine said. “You can have that Mass Ave experience without going downtown (in Indianapolis).”
Angie Fine is bringing her culinary expertise as a manager at the nearby Bonge’s Tavern, along with her focus on using only fresh, quality ingredients to the shop’s sandwiches. The vegetables are bought from Full Hand Farm, just across the street, and the coffee comes from Darkside Coffee in Cicero.
At first, the shop will offer a full coffee and espresso bar, as well as a handful of sandwich options. Later, Angie plans to add soups and salads as well. The small menu allows them to focus on perfecting their meals.
“It may just be a ham sandwich, but I am working to make sure it’s the best ham sandwich you have ever eaten,” she said.
On the studio side, the Roudebush family has brought together two dozen Hoosier artists to sell unique, high-quality new and restored furniture and housewares all with a distinctive country antique feel.
Nick Roudebush said he’s worked hard to vet each of the artists, as well as build the store’s layout so that a customer wouldn’t even notice they are looking at art from a bevy of craftsmen and craftswomen.
“There are no booths or anything, it’s all together to have that single-maker look, and I am keeping that bar pretty high,” he said.
The shop also includes an on-site workshop, allowing customers to pick from a series of light fixture pieces or table legs and tops and then watch them be made right before their eyes.
For both families, who’ve known each other since grade school, the shop’s recent opening was the realization of a lifelong dream to put everything they have into a product to make someone’s life better.
“It’s everybody’s dream, and really my dream, is to make everyone’s dream come true,” Neal Fine said.
Source: The Herald Bulletin