Patrons of Biancke’s of Cynthiana, the area’s oldest restaurant, often chat with one another. "If these walls could talk," says one. The walls here do have stories to tell, and so do the people who eat, work and visit everyday.
Located in the heart of Harrison County, Biancke's has preserved memories of this town and its inhabitants since 1894. Like its schools and churches, this building has become one of Cynthiana's oldest institutions, with a history inextricably linked to the identity of its people.
Wilma McCracken, who's worked at Biancke's for 21 years, learned about the restaurant's history from her sister, an employee for almost four decades. The original owner, Guido Biancke, was a native of Italy who immigrated to the United States in the 1890s.
In spite of having burned down twice and changed ownership several times, Biancke's has become a place of memory and comfort. "It’s a home-type place, where people get together and get to see one another," Wilma says. "It's a place with a pleasant atmosphere."
One thing that has helped hold Biancke's together is its pies. Louise Pickett, a beloved pie maker, baked for the restaurant for more than 30 years. "When people think of Biancke's, they think of Louise,” says Jack Morris, who’s frequented the restaurant since he was 11.
Eight years ago, Louise retired and was replaced by Starr Smith. Along with co-worker Deanna Franklin, Starr has become one of Biancke’s secret weapons. Last Thanksgiving, Biancke’s sold 152 pies to go.
Over the years, Biancke's has remained Cynthiana's epicenter for community life. Virgie Wells, Cynthiana mayor from 1999 to 2006, believes that Biancke’s is the best restaurant in the area. “Going to Biancke's lifts my spirits,” she says. “If Biancke’s ever closed, I’d be brokenhearted.”
Early riser Raymond Wigglesworth agrees. He has been going to Biancke's for "years and years." He says he likes to experience the quiet and get his own coffee.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for the restaurant, which has come close to closing more than once. Last June, Georgetown resident Jon Gruchow bought Biancke’s with the intention of revitalizing it. He says his biggest challenge has been to preserve traditions and memories while making necessary updates to meet the needs of a growing city. Jon hopes the bar in the back, “The Station at Biancke’s,” will attract younger people. “I want to contribute to the city in a positive manner,” he says.
The Gruchows plan to make their home in the restaurant’s upstairs unit. "We're looking forward to moving to Cynthiana next year,” says Jon. "We want to be more involved with the community.”