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The Dutch Corporation.

The Dutch Corporation

Back in 1971, Bob and Sue Miller bought The Curve Inn, a truck stop on the west side of Middlebury. Situated on five acres of land along U.S. 20, the purchase was risky.

The Millers had a dream of turning the small, neon-shrouded eating place into a family-style restaurant that would attract regional tourist trade. The Curve Inn met their requirements. It was located in an Amish community that had tourism potential and it was strategically located on a well-traveled highway.

The first years were tough, and they saw a total change in clientele as they worked to change the image of the restaurant. The establishment ceased to be a 24-hour operation. They adopted a policy of closing every Sunday and on major holidays. They started making their own pies and breads. They even removed the cigarette machine.

Persistence paid off. Word began to spread about the changes taking place at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, the Millers' new restaurant. Today, Essenhaus is the cornerstone of a tourist attraction that covers 100 acres and hosts visitors from all over the Midwest. It's no longer just a nice place to stop for dinner on the way home--it's a travel destination.

In addition to the Essenhaus restaurant, Bob and Sue Miller's Dutch Corp. encompasses seven other entities:

*A 32-room Essenhaus Country Inn

* Die Bock Kich Bakery

* Corn Crib Crafts

* Knot 'n' Grain, A Country Furniture Haus

* The ClothesLine, an apparel store

* The Cabin Cafe

The restaurant features family-style fare, with specialties including roast beef and broasted chicken. Fried ham, baked steak and grilled pork chops different homemade pies. And for those visiting in the morning, Essenhaus serves a hearty breakfast.

The menu has turned out to be a hit: Essenhaus serves 6,000 meals a day during the peak of the summer season. People flock to the Essenhaus by car, bus, helicopter (there's a landing pad adjacent to the restaurant) and by horse-drawn carriage.

An important part of the success for Essenhaus and its satellite operations has been a dedication to authentic Amishdesign of its facilities. The main dining room is, in fact, an Amish barn complete with pegged beams and other rustic touches. "When we built the barn back in 1975, our architectural firm had to educate state and local building officials," Bob Miller says. "They hadn't seen this style of construction in commercial buildings before."

The Troyer Group, a Mishawaka architectural fimr, has been the design consultant since 1973. LeRoy Troyer, the company's head, gree up in Middlebury just a mile from where the Essenhaus complex now stands. "From the beginning, we established a design character that ties into the local Amish farm community setting," Troyer notes. Much of that architectural detail can be seen in the restaurant's unique two-story atrium complete with handcrafted furniture, antiques and lampposts. A re-created country schoolhouse on the balcony level serves as a conference room.

Elsewhere, the Corn Crib crafts shop was designed like a corn crib, complete with real corn in its crib walls. The Essenhaus Country Inn creates a homey image with white picket fences, porches and an atrium resembling a living room.

The Millers, with the help of The Troyer Group, have developed a master plan for the Essenhaus complex. It includes a 60-room addition to the inn as a near-team goal, while a convention center and condominium-style housing are on the long-term list at the Essenhaus.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:inn/restaurant and related business in Middlebury, Indiana
Author:Pethe, Gary
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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