By Riley Harshman
After the passing of its longtime owner, the Wild Horse Café, located in Pomeroy, went through hard times financially. There were even rumors of the restaurant going under. Now, the restaurant is turning things around with new management.
Horace Karr started the Wild Horse Café in 2003, but after his death in February 2017, his children acquired ownership of the restaurant. Jane Ann Aanestad, Karr’s daughter, holds the title of owner. Aanestad is an audiologist by trade and admits that she didn’t have much experience in the restaurant business.
Without someone with restaurant experience at the helm, the restaurant began to decline. Aanestad was preoccupied with her work as as an audiologist, and she couldn’t keep an eye on the restaurant every day. Without leadership, staff and management struggled to work together cohesively, perpetuating a variety of problems with food and service.
Aanestad realized there had to be some changes. She needed the right people with the right attitude in order to turn things around.
“We kind of felt like things were just going to continue as is, and we found out very quickly it takes somebody intimately involved to be watching over what’s going on,” Aanestad says.
Aanestad worked to hire people well-equipped to help the restaurant. General Manager Hollie Richard began in June 2018. The staff calls Richard “Jolly Hollie” due to her contagious, positive attitude.
“I’m usually always smiling, even when it’s really busy and hectic, it’s contagious,” Richard says.
In December, Aanestad hired a familiar face for the management team. Tim Shanks Sr. was a server at the Wild Horse Café for 13 years, until he left amidst the discord. Now that Shanks was a manager, he noticed disarray.
“When I returned, it was basically Murphy’s Law at that time: what could go wrong, did go wrong,” he says.
The morale of the restaurant was low. Shanks and Richard knew they had to boost the morale of the staff. Shanks wanted to personally let his staff know that things were going to get better.
“Taking their ideas into consideration, their wants and needs into consideration and actually applying [them],” Shanks says.
Richard has created an environment that inspires teamwork.
“Everybody has responsibilities, which makes us more of a team. We’re all a unit–the management and the staff,” Richard says.
Shanks does a lot behind the scenes, from talking to people of influence in Pomeroy and Meigs County, to talking to other business owners.
“I have also been going to Chamber of Commerce meetings every Friday. I have visited other local businesses to share my views of bringing the community back together,” Shanks says.
The Wild Horse Café is moving forward, but does it have a long-term future? Aanestad certainly thinks so.
“I see nothing but blue skies ahead for us. We’ll be successful,” she says, her optimism, once again, contagious.