BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Just two days after suffering from smoke and water damage, the Whitehouse Inn’s bar was not only open, but also full of friends who came out to support owners Tony and Marcy Fronk and the restaurant that’s served as a community gathering place for 28 years.
Jarrod Worthington and Deana Toney haven’t lived in Whitehouse for years but drove from Genoa.
“Tony did so much for everyone during COVID, we wanted to come and support him,” Worthington said.
Recently retired Whitehouse firefighter/paramedic Chery Marty and her husband Doug echoed that sentiment.
“Everyone here is a friend,” Tony said, as he and Marcy surveyed the crowd. “The support we’ve had has been a lot to receive. We’re used to flying under the radar, but when something like this happens, you don’t realize how many people in the community are supporting you.”
The Fronks said they are overwhelmed by the number of calls and texts from friends and community members in the days following the fire.
Marcy said four employees were in the building that morning and saw smoke in the walk-in cooler. Soon, fire departments from White-house, Waterville, Monclova Township and the 180th Fighter Wing were on-site to locate the source of the smoke. Luckily, the smoldering behind the wall wasn’t fed by oxygen, Marcy noted.
“If it had been fed, we could have lost the whole building,” she said.
Whitehouse Fire Chief Josh Hartbarger said the source was in the wall and the cause is under investigation. He estimates the cost of repairs anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000 because of a need to replace roofing, siding and a cooler.
“Old construction is hard to get at. We tried to do the least amount of removal as possible while getting to the source,” Hartbarger said.
The Lucas County Auditor’s website lists the building as being constructed in 1945. Tony remembers it being a dark bar with pool tables and netting hanging from the ceiling when his dad, the late John Fronk, bought it in 1995. It has since become known for prime rib, towers of onion rings and its presidential decor.
While the Fronks have insurance to cover the damages, their concern is for the 40 employees who are unable to work until the restaurant reopens. Fundraiser specials are being held at their other downtown Whitehouse restaurant, Crust Pizzeria.
“Our employees want to work,” Tony said, noting that each is being hit by lost income.
With J&R Construction getting immediately to work clearing debris and making plans for approval and construction, Tony hopes to get health department approval to reopen within the next few weeks. In the meantime, the bar will remain open daily.