RATHBUN — Within casting distance to the lake, Tackle This is a lighthouse for vacationing hungry families or fisherman in need of catching a warm meal or topping off their fishing baits.
Husband and wife Chris and Connie Frushon are the new owner-operators of Rathbun’s Tackle This. The restaurant, bait, and tackle shop are open for your business from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Monday.
The past couple of years have seen Rathbun’s main business trade hands through different owners and leases. The Frushons this past May stabilized the business by purchasing it outright.
“Our friends bought the business two years ago and decided they didn’t want to own it anymore,” said Connie. “Last year they leased the business and then this year they called us to see if we were interested in buying and we said, ‘Yes.’”
Although Connie is originally from Newton and Chris hails from California, the couple are now adopted lake natives. The Frushons have called Indian Ridge on the lake home for the past 17 years.
“We got married here at the lake,” said Connie. “Chris and I have been together for 17 years, but we just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Chris came to me and said that he had bought me a present for our recent fourth anniversary and it was Tackle This.”
There is a third wheel comprising the day-to-day business operation and that would be Connie’s best friend Pam Kerchner.
Kerchner and Connie have a baked-in friendship that has been cooking for nine years, when they met as servers at Honey Creek Resort.
“Then two years ago, my friends bought Tackle This and asked me to cook for them,” Connie said. “The first thing I did was to call Pam who by then was with Lee Containers. I asked her to come work with me again and she agreed. When our friends leased the business in their second year, I retired during the winter of 2017. Pam returned to Honey Creek.”
Connie had been living the dream of retirement at beautiful Indian Ridge until Chris’s anniversary gift. Smiling Connie said, “Owning this and now working six days a week is a big jump from retirement. Buying this wasn’t a hard decision for Chris but being retired it was for me.”
“This is Chris’s idea and dream,” explained Connie. “He had to sell the idea to me. I mean I had been off for two seasons of the lake and I was enjoying the second year of my retirement.”
Kerchner serving a hungry customer a red basket of hot cheese balls turned and added, “They surprised me when they bought the business, but I said yes right away.”
Chris currently is maintaining his career at JBS Pork in Ottumwa where he serves as a general foreman.
Chris is somewhat of a renaissance man.
Walking into the quaint restaurant that also offers fishing equipment and baits, hungry lake-goers will notice a half dozen original oil paintings decorating the walls.
Chris is the artist who has caught a Bigmouth Bass jumping midair or a Lab puppy sitting on the lake bank while his master fishes.
For now, Chris is multi-tasking. He has his focus on the 92-mile round trip back and forth from Ottumwa where he works. Make no mistake, however, as he also has a hand on the pulse of his new business.
“Chris stops every morning to see if we are OK,” says Connie gratefully. “Like this morning I had to call him because the grills weren’t working.”
Chris quipped, “Yeah, not a day goes by the girls don’t break something. No, we have had a lot of repairs before we could open. Today I have a certified electrician with me and we are working on the grills. Most of the repairs I can make myself.”
Chris thought for a moment and said, “Well, if it was easy to do then everyone would do it. The thing is, if you have to hire a guy to fix every single thing, there is no way you will make it.”
The chimes above the front door announced a customer into the restaurant, “Can I get some chicken strips, a tenderloin, and an ice tea to go, please?”
Looking around his new venture Chris remarked, “Our idea is to keep it simple. We offer comfort food which is what people want’”
Chris continued explaining his business philosophy.
“We have a real passion concerning ‘farm-to-fork,’” Chris said. “That means we are serving locally grown food. For example, the bacon is local. It’s made in Ottumwa at the plant where I work. The farmers that patronize us also bring their pigs to our plant and that is what we serve here.”
“All the Oak benches you see were handmade by a local farmer,” Chris continued. “Supporting our community is so important to us. Even the bait we sell comes from a fellow who lives four miles from me.
“Almost everything we serve is local. It’s pretty neat.”
Connie said their new business was off to a busy start.
“It’s been a little hectic at times,” she said. “I didn’t think we would be as busy as we have been. So we have been hiring. We are up to two full-time and two part-time employees. Our first month of business has been overwhelming.”
As Chris visited with an out-of-state customer he asked, “So are you going fishing today?”
Chris and Connie were living their new dream.
Connie remarked, “We get people from everywhere. Just this morning we had a couple from Texas.”
Chris with admiration for Connie asked his wife to explain what the restaurant's famous breakfast, the “Train Wreck” is.
Connie described the popular breakfast that is served from 7-11 a.m. at Tackle This.
“The first layer is hash browns, then a side of sausage, a layer of cheese, that is all topped with our made-from-scratch gravy, next are eggs, and finally we top it all with bacon,” Connie said. “That is the Train Wreck and it comes with a side of toast.”
A rustic brown cabin within feet of the restaurant is available for rent, Chris said. They also offer campsites and boat storage.