Partnership restores The Forks building in Pemberville


PEMBERVILLE — For well over a half century, The Forks restaurant served Pemberville in a building originally built to be a hotel in the 1880s.

Now, that building will soon be coming alive again as an eatery, thanks to four successful businessmen: three from Pemberville and one from and one out of town.

Dave Olivarez, a native Mexican, and his wife Andrea, who originally hails from Wauseon, are bringing their fifth restaurant to Pemberville, which they estimate will open after renovations are complete in about eight months.

One area of the restaurant will feature a U-shaped bar and a deck is being built behind the restauant on pillars overlooking the Portage River which will also include a bar and seat over 70 people. The restaurant has already been granted a liquor license and plans to be open seven days a week.

Olivarez also operates two restaurants, El Zarape and Guajillo’s in Bowling Green, which he opened in 2001 and 2014. He opened Mi Ranchito on Washington Street, just off U.S. Route 30, in Van Wert in 2008 and Cabo Mexican in nearby Delphos in 2010.

The name of the new Pemberville restaurant? Olivarez says it will be a homage to his hometown in Mexico.

“We’re tossing around Casa Grande and I think that is what we are going to stick with,” Olivarez said. “I wanted to name it after my hometown and casa grande, which means grand house, or big house, so we’re kind of giving it that all-Mexican, Hasienda look to the place.

“We’re just aiming to bring a little of what we created in Bowling Green over to Pemberville because over the years we’ve had a lot of our regular customers who are from that community ask us if we ever considered going over there. It just happened to happen at this time. We’re excited to serve the community and be part of the town.”

Mexican, but a little more

The menu? It’s Mexican-American, but in homage to Pemberville and the restaurant history in that building, there will be more.

“It will be mainly Mexican food, but we are also going to do a hybrid menu,” Olivarez said. “I’m thinking about having some American staples, steak and potatoes and a little bit of Italian, hopefully — some pasta, maybe lasagna.

“I’m thinking, just different things that we can rotate on a different basis for people who don’t necessarily want Mexican food every day we can give them some options.”

Olivarez says he is even considering a sports bar menu for late hours, and is willing to take ideas from former well-known dishes at The Forks.

Olivarezes have even purchased a home on Ohio 105 in Pemberville. Their partners are local businessmen Jon Meyer, Tom Oberhouse, and Bob Frobose.

“As far as Tom (North Branch Nursery) and I are concerned, we’re just putting some finances toward it,” said Frobose, owner of Frobose IGA, a Subway restauarant franchise, and Frobose Meats, but he says that does not necessarily mean he will be a wholesale supplier.

“We’re not doing it because we want to be in the restaurant business, we are doing it because we want a restaurant (there) in Pemberville,” Frobose continued. “The community needs it. He’s got a really good program and I certainly don’t want him to feel obligated to me. That is not why we are involved.”

Frobose is confident that the investment will pay dividends, if not just for the partnership, but for the community.

“It is going to have a huge draw not just in the Pemberville community but in the surrounding community. I’m totally convinced of that,” Frobose said.

Meyer, who originally co-owned the building with his sister before the partnership formed, said it will be another draw to bring traffic to Pemberville.

“It kind of speeds up each other up — we have Todd Sheets (Beeker’s General Store) in town, and Bob does a lot,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of like Frankenmuth where once a month there is always something going on. It will be nice to have more things downtown. I’ll bet they have eight or nine months covered already, almost.”

Frobose added, “The mayor (Carol Bailey) knows more doors need to open because there are a lot of special events, several a month in the summertime, and we have to do it like any other community. It will happen. I don’t know how soon. I think there is a lot of excitement in the community just to see something started.”

Meyer believes the liquor license will set it apart, and Olivarez promises the restauarant will apply for a Sunday liquor license as well.

“We kind of got lucky with the alcohol permits — one just came up and I don’t know who it was going to in town, but Andrea got on that as soon as it came up six months ago,” Meyer said. “It is kind of the key to the whole thing. It’s kind of hard to have a restaurant with a deck that you can only drink pop. It wouldn’t work.

Permitting and renovations

However, it has been a long road getting to this point. Permitting, architectural drawings, and costs have dragged down the project for years.

Meyer, along with his sister, originally purchased the building prior to the Covid pandemic.

“There was more to it than I ever thought,” Meyer said. “So we’ve been working on the actual drawings for probably a year.

“Then we wanted to make the deck bigger and really to make it fit we had to go through a variance process, then we had to move some of the piers because there is a lot of stuff behind the building that is undocumented, so that kind of was slow.

“But now it’s starting to gather some pace to it. We had to replace some sewer lines in the back so there are some upgrades that we didn’t see involved with it, but we kind of expected there were going to be some big costs.”

The deck renovations are already visible in back of the restaurant — huge pillars are taking shape, but the work continues inside, too.

“It’s been going on for probably two months. It’s starting to take shape,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to figure out some of the details, like the flooring.”

Meyer had the original vision, and now he’s grateful that Oberhouse, Frobose, and Oivarez are on board. From start to finish, costs could run to nearly $1 million to purchase and renovate.

“It’s still up in the air. It’s not going to go down, I know that,” Meyer said. “They sold the building for about $32,000, but then just to gut it and replace some concrete, some doors, we got up to the 150-mark really quick, which is what the partnership bought the building for from my sister and I.

“We’re thinking overall, when you add everything together, it is probably going to be around $800,000, I would guess. But everything is about 35%, in some cases 40% more, versus pre-Covid. The same quotes, the same contractors, went up 35 to 40%.”

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