MOUNDRIDGE — Joetta and Dave Whitcomb were looking for something to do after retiring, so when friends told them of an old farmhouse for sale, they decided to turn it into a restaurant.
When the Whitcombs first looked at the property, they were surprised to learn it used to be a working farm that included not just the a house and garage, but a large chicken house, several other outbuildings and five acres of land.
At first, Dave and Joetta thought they would rent out the house and raise animals on the acreage.
"This was just going to be our playground," Dave said.
That changed when they saw how much updating was needed in the house, which had been damaged in an electrical fire two years ago.
"Once we saw how much work we were going to have to put in it ... we wanted to do something special," Dave said. "People started giving us suggestions and the restaurant idea began to surface."
The Whitcombs are renovating the two-story 1910 farmhouse to be a destination dining site that will serve traditional German Mennonite and American food.
"I didn't want to have a buffet, but a nice, sit-down restaurant," Joetta said.
The Homestead, located at 524 E. Cole St., is expected to open around the end of this year. It will have dining areas on both the first and second floors, with a patio area open when the weather allows next year.
The Whitcombs estimate they will be able to accommodate around 100 diners, thanks to knocking out several walls to open up the upstairs bedrooms.
"Five-gallon bucket by five-gallon bucket, we took the plaster down," Joetta said. "We did all the rewiring and put all the lights in."
Dave and Joetta also added insulation, installed a new heating and cooling system, built a family bathroom and removed old carpet and linoleum in the house. They found most of the original pine wood floors were still intact, along with some of the wood siding put in place before additions were built onto the house.
The Homestead will feature wood church pews as seating in its entrance area as well as farmhouse-style wall decor.
"We want to try and maintain the character of the old house," Dave said.
The menu will offer both German Mennonite items and American-style meals, as the Whitcombs recognize their diners may prefer one over the other.
"We'll have a lot of both," Dave said.
The Homestead will only be open on Friday and Saturday evenings, but will also available for private parties on other days with advance notice.
"It's going to be a unique place," Joetta said.
The Whitcombs said they will serve a limited selection of alcohol at the restaurant and eventually turn the garage into a small bar area.
Dave and Joetta are optimistic about building a restaurant in a place that is within easy driving from several bigger cities — as well as being close to Moundridge's airport for possible fly-in visitors. They said their plans for The Homestead have drawn mixed reactions from Moundridge residents, who have expressed both excitement and skepticism about the town being able to support another restaurant.
"It's variety," Dave said. "It's good for Moundridge and what's good for Moundridge is good for everybody."