College acquires Village Inn
The Village Inn will become a Gambier dining spot once again. Kenyon has acquired the Gaskin Avenue building and, after renovations, will lease it to Joel Gunderson and Margaret Lewis, proprietors of the Middle Ground Café. The two plan to open a new restaurant there by the time the fall semester begins.
According to Chief Business Officer David McConnell, the College purchased the building for $520,000. Charles P. Waite Jr. '77 P'06, a Kenyon trustee, and his wife, Susan Butterfield Waite '78, supported the purchase with a lead gift.
"The Waites' generosity was crucial," says McConnell. "Thanks to their help, we can bring back this landmark restaurant."
The brick building with its tall columns, located beside the Student Affairs Center, has played a significant role in the commercial history of Gambier. The late Jim Hayes, known to generations of village residents and Kenyon students as a grocer, bought the property and built the Village Inn in 1947. It served as a bar and restaurant for many years but has been unoccupied since early 2002, when Tom and Lisa Buchanan, the restaurant's proprietors, moved their operation to Mount Vernon.
The College purchased the building from Steve and Mary Ellen Schaefer--she is the daughter of Jim Hayes and his wife, Jenny. The Schaefers, who live in Blacksburg, Virginia, inherited the building in 1997, when Jim Hayes died. They will continue to own the house next door, which had been the Hayes residence.
Gunderson and Lewis plan to retain the name Village Inn for the restaurant. Menu plans are still taking shape, but Gunderson says that they expect to retain the bar in the eatery. The building also includes several apartments and the Headquarters barbershop. All will remain, according to McConnell.