Sell! Sell! Sell! That’s been the word of the day for two local attractions this side of the Ohio River. Now fans and locals aren’t sure where to go if these beloved attractions close. Visitors to Kye’s of Jeffersonville and Joe Huber’s Family Restaurant of Starlight are going to have new owners soon.
I had already decided to write about Joe Huber’s restaurant earlier after news of the sale broke last week but wanted to talk about Kye’s since the sale of that venue is of similar concern to locals. Worth noting, I’ve never been to Kye’s for events, but I recognize the name as a premiere event space for folks in the Louisville Metro area. Also, worth mentioning is that Kye’s has already been sold to a property management company near the event space and could still be operated as an event space or retail center depending on the new owner’s whims.
Joe Huber’s Family Restaurant is expected to be auctioned off near the year’s end. When news of the auction broke, a near panic happened and local media descended upon the Huber campus to report about the sale and a possible deal for another family member to buy the property before the auction.
If all this seems a little crazy, it really is. I’ve been nearly a half dozen times to Joe Huber’s restaurant in my entire 33 years. I went 2 or 3 times in childhood and it was a neat experience, but it wasn’t an annual event for the family. I’ve now been about the same number of times in the last year and half to Joe Huber’s restaurant. The restaurant is known for its simple country fare with big portions.
Most Saturdays during the harvest season the restaurant serves a full dinner family style for the whole table including fried biscuits with apple butter, Waldorf salad, slaw, green beans, mashed potatoes and white gravy, dumplin’s, fried chicken, and sliced ham. You can also add dessert for an extra few dollars. Besides eating at the restaurant, the farmland it’s situated on offers a farm market with homemade jams, sauces, produce, candy, and crafts. Children take delight along with couples during the fall season to pick pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.
Lest you think that I’m just spouting this off from dodgy memory and others posting on social media, I’ll admit that last weekend I met much of my dad’s family over at Joe Huber’s restaurant, because it might close. The restaurant was ¾ full on a cold and drizzly Saturday. If the weather had been nicer I’m sure it would have been much fuller. I actually was glad when it was decided last week that the family wanted to meet over there, because my new locale is only 10 minutes from Starlight and meant less out of the way driving for me. I had already realized when I was appointed to the Borden area, that a happy consequence was my proximity to Joe Huber’s Family Restaurant and their cousin space — Huber Winery. Actually, if I’m being honest, I was more excited to be near the winery than Joe Huber’s, but they both have their advantages.
For what it’s worth, the Huber Winery is run by a different branch of the Huber family tree, but yet many panicked thinking that the winery would be sold and shuttered as well. Given this confusion Huber Winery had to release a statement affirming the sale of Joe Huber’s restaurant was a different branch of the family and a separate enterprise and they planned to be operating their 176th year in 2019.
Back to the confusion and the packed restaurant, that annually does millions of dollars’ worth of business, it will be fine. All that’s happening is that the namesake family that owns the restaurant and farm will allow someone not part of the family to own and oversee the business. That’s it, full stop. As I discussed with various members of my family, that’s not much different than current operation. Most of the Joe Huber family has already allowed non-family to run the day to day operations and other facets of the business. The only involvement most of the Joe Huber family has is collecting the profits gained from the business and being the name on the tax forms. So, yes, the restaurant will be sold to someone not named Huber, more than likely. It may very well be sold to the other Huber family that runs the winery nearby since they are related distantly. Much of this hullaballoo is going to be similar to Papa John’s being run by anybody but John Schnatter, Wendy’s being run by anyone other than Dave Thomas, or KFC being run by someone other than Col. Harlan Sanders. Sure, the founders’ names and likenesses are present in the restaurants, but they gave up running the businesses decades before.
What do you think? Does the founder or namesake of a restaurant need to be intimately involved in the business once it becomes majorly successful or can someone else run the business and use the founder’s name and likeness to keep up the success?