Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles on dairy bars through Adams County - sources of pride for many in the communities they serve.
Last week, Crossroads Dairy Bar graced the front page of The People’s Defender with the first article in the series on dairy bars. This week the Locust Grove Dairy Bar is the focus, along with their famous footlongs.
Some of those outside the community of Locust Grove may not realize just how long the Locust Grove Dairy Bar has been in existence. The dairy bar was established in 1956, the year before the World Plowing Championship was held in Peebles. The influx of people into the Peebles area for the Championship was so great that the line of parked cars stretched from Peebles to Locust Grove. The dairy bar did so well during that time, that the original owners had paid off their loan by the end of the year.
The Locust Grove Dairy Bar has had five generations of owners in its 57 year history. The dairy bar was originally constructed by James Everrett and Zelma Gulley and Kenneth and Wava Fristoe. James and Kenneth were both linemen for Columbus Southern, and they did most of the interior work, including installing the electricity.
Kent Gulley, son of James and Zelma, notes that during the Wold Plowing Championship, the dairy bar remained open for 24 hours a day for a whole week with each couple taking shifts running the bar.
“Us kids slept on the shelves next to the buns,” Kent reminisced with a chuckle. “It was a fun time. Back then the footlongs and the shakes were only $ 0.25. I remember the price well, because I lived on them back then.”
Kent also stated that the famous coney sauce was created by his mother Zelma and Wava. “I don’t remember the exact recipe; though, I think I have it written down somewhere, but I remember them grinding the meat for it. That was another thing - during the Plowing Championship, the roads were so full of people it was hard to get supplies. I remember the logistics of it all being difficult.”
The Gulleys exited the business when James was injured on the job as a linemen, and the Fristoe’s sold the dairy bar a year later to Newt Mason, whose son worked there as a student, being the first student employee. Mason sold the business to Yvonne Bailey, who ran the dairy bar for 11 years. She in turn sold it to Victor West, who also ran the dairy bar for 11 years. Charles Leedom is the most recent owner, having purchased it from West five years ago.
Leedom served in the military, before settling in Michigan and working for General Motors. When he retired, he moved to Adams County to help care for his parents who live in Portsmouth. He soon discovered that his family was among the first settlers in Adams County. Leedom Street in Bentonville is named after his family.
One of his ancestors owned one of the first inns in Manchester. Revolutionary War soldiers received land grants in the area as payment for their service. When they arrived in the county, they rented a room at the inn, having nowhere else to stay, and pay the rent with part of the land grant, resulting in the Leedom’s ancestor owning a large portion of land.
As mentioned earlier, the Locust Grove Dairy Bar is known for its footlongs. The current record during Leedom’s tenure as owner is 425 footlongs sold over the course of one weekend. The secret is the coney sauce which comes with the dairy bar when it is bought by a new owner. The same recipe used in 1956 is used to this day.
Leedom estimated that Locust Grove serves an average of 300 people every day. Serpent Mound brings in quite a few of the non-local patrons, including international customers from 17 different countries. As the only eatery nearby, tourists visiting Serpent Mound visit the dairy bar.
Leedom recounts one story with a smile. “An archeologist from Germany walked all the way here from Peebles where he got off the Go Bus. The first thing he says to me is ‘who put a cemetery on top of an Indian burial mound?’ I said, ‘You’re the second archaeologist to ask me that.’”
Once again, my group of taste testers volunteered for the duty of enjoying delicious food. Unlike Crossroads, Locust Grove has smaller menu but it contains all the classic ones expects at a dairy bar.
Obviously we had to try the famous footlong to see what almost 60 years of tradition tasted like. The sauce wasn’t as sweet as Crossroads Dairy Bar, and was more meaty. One of the diners likened it to good-quality sloppy joe, and appreciated the beefiness of the flavor.
The hot dog itself was large and tender. Two of our number had decided to share one and they easily split the footlong in half with their hands, indicating that these footlongs did not have any of the chewy rubberiness that plagues lesser quality hot dogs.
The cheeseburgers were juicy with fresh toppings, and the side of potato wedges my friend had were a great accompaniment. The onion rings weren’t overly greasy and had a background yeast flavor, hinting that the batter was homemade.
The shakes were extremely thick. At one point, the vanilla shake I was enjoying became so thick that I needed a spoon to finish it off. On the topic of desserts, the hot fudge cake had a large chocolate cake sandwiching a big dollop of ice cream. The moist cake was also a homemade treat, rather than a pre-made cake bought by the dairy bar. One of the group members also had a turtle sundae, stating that he had plenty of caramel and chocolate syrup.
The food was excellent, and the menu keeps to the classics. It’s no surprise why the Locust Grove Dairy Bar has managed to hold a thriving business for over half a century.