Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bygone Business: Bebout's Restaurant

For nearly four decades, Rochester residents who wanted to "dine out" likely bought their meals from one of the Bebout brothers, Harold, Clare and Leonard.  Harold Bebout started his career cooking in the town's pool hall, while in 1927 Clare took over the Merchant's Restaurant located in a newly-constructed building at 406 S. Main.  Those were heady days in Rochester - the South Hill bridge had just opened, bringing more automobile traffic into town, and business was booming. Not long after came the stock market crash and the Great Depression, and the restaurant closed, a casualty of hard times.

Harold Bebout rebounded in 1933 and opened a new restaurant, this time located in what was then the Nichols building (known today as O'Connor's Public House). During World War II, he also operated the employee cafeteria at McAleer Manufacturing on Water Street (now Rochester Mills Beer Company) and offered catering services.  Harold Bebout retired in 1947 and sold Bebout's Restaurant to his younger brother, Leonard, who had been cooking in the establishment since he was in high school. In 1952, Leonard moved the restaurant once again, back to 406 S. Main, where his brother had started out back in 1927.

One local resident recalled that a menu wasn't really necessary at Bebout's. A guest simply ate whatever Mr. Bebout, in his signature chef's hat and apron, happened to have on the grill that day, and paid whatever the waitress said was owed.  In May 1967, Leonard Bebout decided to hang up his hat and apron and go fishing, and that was the end of Bebout's Restaurant in Rochester. He's miss his friends, Bebout told the Rochester Clarion, but he was "just tired of cooking."

This 1961 photo of Bebout's Restaurant at 406 S. Main is from the Walter and Marjorie Dernier collection.

1 comment:

  1. I am lucky to have called Leonard my Papa as a child. I was born and raised in Northern Michigan and find myself as an adult intrigued with learning more about this era in his and my grandmother's life. My beautiful grandmother is now 97 years old. Unfortunately my grandfather passed when I was a child. My understanding is there is now a jewelry store located at this address. I would love to view additional exterior and interior photos from the days of the restaurant. Is there a local chamber or Historical Society that I could inquire with? Thank you.