By Kate Mauer, Photos by Carrie Legg
For over 50 years, Tootles Pumpkin Inn has been a hotspot of Pickaway County.
Located in downtown Circleville, Tootles is an eccentric dive bar that brings spirit, light-hearted engagement, and a welcoming atmosphere to the town.
Tootles has found its niche with current owner Ashley Tait. She has been a manager at Tootles for 10 years and been an owner for five years. Tait has transformed the bar into the venue it is today.
Tootles regular, Timberly Sayre, says she believes the Inn is different from other local establishments.
“In some other bars, you’re going to have club-like settings or you’re going to have a little bit of chaos,” Sayre says. “To me, this is a place to unwind, so I think that definitely sets it aside from most other bars that we have locally”.
Tootles has been one of the most popular live music venues in all of Pickaway County since its start in the 70s. In the room next to the bar, separated by curtains, lays a stage for Tootles’ increasingly popular live music shows. The walls around the stage are covered in the signatures of musicians that have performed there.
Various artists have performed here, both local and well-known acts. Musicians that regularly perform at Tootles include Austin Stirling and Kadie Meadows. These shows occur every Saturday night, with the exception of during football season.
Tootles also hosts other events such as drag shows, donut eating contests, and themed DJ nights.
When entering Tootles, you’re immediately greeted by Tait and a quiet atmosphere of friendly faces. You’re also greeted by Auggie, her dog, who she considers the unofficial mascot of Tootles. Auggie is nine months old but has been coming to Tootles since she was just nine weeks.
Circleville is known for its Pumpkin Show, which is often called the “Greatest Free Show on Earth.” This has led to many pumpkin related items being found all over the town, and Tootles is no exception. They serve many pumpkin flavored drinks, such as the pumpkin mule and the pumpkin pie shot.
Various pumpkin themed decorations can be seen on the filled walls and the Pumpkin Show logo is also featured on the walls. The Pumpkin Show is an annual pumpkin themed festival held in downtown Circleville. It began in 1903 to promote the towns’ agriculture industry and has evolved into a booming event since then.
During her time as owner, Tait has incorporated unique décor that has been through drastic reformations. She brings back Halloween and spooky-themed pieces from her various travels to use as decorations.
Skeletons, dolls, and memorabilia from horror movies are abundant everywhere in Tootles. It all started with the Hannibal Lecter statue behind the bar and expanded from there. Those decorations are all items that Tait has incorporated into the atmosphere of the bar, and because of this, Tootles has become known for its Halloween theme.
Under Tait’s leadership, Tootles has transformed into a place where everyone can feel welcome. Tait has a great reputation with customers, greeting regulars by name and welcoming new faces. Although bars are often places where children are not allowed, Tait has made it her mission to turn Tootles into a place where all are welcome. Parents feel safe bringing their children knowing that Tait has created a safe environment for them there.
Sayre believes Tait has accomplished those goals.
“She tries as hard as she can to get the community involved—she really strives for this to be a safe space for all people,” Sayre says.
Tait aids her community by hosting various charity events at Tootles. Tootles hosts a Toys for Tots toy drive during the winter, which has become so successful that it’s become an annual event. Tootles also hosts various other community events, such as coat drives and food drives.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, Tait says she figured out how she wanted to express her personality through the bar during the pandemic. She says that COVID led her to realize what she wanted to do and where her passion lied.
Tootles brings an eccentric yet comfortable venue to Pickaway County and its ever-growing impact under the leadership of Tait is apparent.