The Beacon Restaurant had a 55-year run
By MARY HURSH
The Beacon Restaurant on Kale Island started life as King’s Grocery in the late 1940s. In the late 1950s, the grocery, already a popular meeting spot for residents around the lake, was transformed into a restaurant by owner Mary Evans. After a long run, Evans sold the restaurant to Mary and Johnnie Kimble.
In 1976, Don and Janet Hays decided to buy the restaurant one night when they were having dinner at the Beacon. Don, a sales-incentive writer, and Janet, a former elementary teacher, decided they wanted a new career and the restaurant business would be it. “We bought the restaurant in February in partnership with Les and Shirley Webber. The Webbers left the partnership within a year,” said Hays.
During the first six months of operation, breakfast, lunch and dinner were offered. After that, the restaurant was open just for lunch and diner. Lunch was offered 11-4 p.m.; dinner on Monday-Saturday from 4-10 p.m.; and dinner on Sunday was served from noon to 9 p.m. “Don did not really close between lunch and dinner. We often had groups there for meetings or playing cards. We just kept the doors open,” said Hays. “We offered pan-fried chicken every Sunday and prime rib on Friday and Saturday.”
With the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Beacon served patrons their favorites for lunch and dinner. The meat came from Goshen and the fresh fish came from Chicago. “Prime rib was a favorite. People really enjoyed the leg of lamb we served on Sunday and they enjoyed our special Beacon cheese spread,” said Hays.
Because former owners Mary and Johnnie Kimmel had a pier on Lake Wawasee, diners could come by boat to enjoy dinner at the Beacon. “In addition , we had 35 parking spaces beside the restaurant. “Early on, boaters could locate the Beacon easily because an actual beacon used to sit atop the restaurant.
In 1984, a new entrance, improved restrooms, and a stairway leading to the upstairs banquet facility were added. The old bar area was also remodeled. A skydome to let light into the dining area was also added. “All kinds of people came to the Beacon. The kids enjoyed the two aquariums in the family room, and the adults enjoyed being able to host private parties upstairs in the Overhead Lounge. We did not accept reservations or take credit cards.”
“In the 1970s, the price of a New York strip steak was $7 and a glass of wine was $1.25. The same steak was $10.95 and coffee was 60 cents when we sold the restaurant in 1990.”
The Beacon was sold in 2005 to local area resident Phillip Wilhelm who tore it down and created a green space for island residents.