After years of serving good food to Colleton residents, the Sumners, owners of the Olde House Café, are retiring and passing the business into new hands. Ian Padgett and Casey Shoupe are the new proprietors as of Nov. 16.
In January 1995, Tim and Donna Sumner became the proud owners of the Olde House Café on Bells Highway. Wanting to make a career change, they purchased the restaurant from a friend who had owned it for only a week. The Purvis family sold it after retiring, but the new owner just wanted the property and not the restaurant, so he was happy to sell to his friends and neighbors, the Sumners.
The “country cookin’ that makes you good-lookin’” continued at the restaurant with much of the same staff.
Tim and Donna opened their doors planning to serve down home country food. “Nothing fancy, just good old country cooking,” said Tim.
Serving up fried chicken, biscuits, banana pudding, yams, barbeque and other tasty things in a family style restaurant, the Sumners have had a healthy restaurant and catering business, and enjoyed meeting locals and tourists from all over the U.S. and world.
The increase from year to year enabled them to expand the restaurant and kitchen, and include items in the small gift shop at the front. The homey atmosphere and good rapport among staff meant that there has been very little turnover, so the staff knows each other well and also know local customers on a personal level. Some residents eat there every single day. And in some instances, travelers will come in from all over the country and say the restaurant was recommended by another traveler passing through or friends in another state. Being so close to I-95 has been a boon.
But now it’s time to for the Sumners to rest and say good-bye. “This is bittersweet,” said Donna. “Many tears have been shed between all of us here at our departure, but we won’t go too far; I will still be eating here often,” she said, laughing. “I’m not sure the stove at my home works.”
“It is a sad and happy time,” added Tim. “The staff members are family. I know them and all of their husbands, children and grandchildren. But it’s time to retire and take it easy. We would like to travel for a while, and that’s been hard because when you own a restaurant it becomes your whole life. As an owner, you need to be here,” said Tim, who was sporting a black eye from his latest eye surgery. Knowing he was aging, dealing with eye issues, and then with the arrival of Covid-19, Tim was ready to pass the restaurant into younger hands. “Covid has been the worst thing we have had to deal with at this restaurant in 26 years. We were closed for two months, and I was worried about my employees. Some of our staff have been with us since day one. But little by little, the crowds have started coming back, and I just hope that there are no more lockdowns. This has been terrible, absolutely terrible for the whole country,” said Tim.
Donna agreed. “I am just thankful that we were in a position that we could survive here, but we know it’s time to retire and go,” said Donna.
“I always told Donna that one day someone would come and offer to buy the place and that would be my signal to retire,” Tim said. That someone turned out to be Casey Shoupe.
The business was not for sale until one day when Shoupe contacted the Sumners and offered to buy it. The Sumners were concerned about the timing; with the onslaught of Covid, they were worried that this wasn’t a good time for Shoupe to buy the restaurant, but he was ready.
Shoupe, with the help of his best friend and partner Ian Padgett of IP Builders, decided to give up his lucrative career with Dominion Energy to take up the reins as part owner and full-time manager of Olde House.
No stranger to serving food, Shoupe, has been catering on the side for years with his Squealing Sow Barbeque and has won “Smoke in the ‘Boro” competitions and People’s Choice awards for his smoked meats. His specialties are smoked brisket, ribs, and barbeque — items he plans to one day incorporate into the menu at Olde House.
“Everyone in Walterboro who knows me, knows about my smoked foods,” said Shoupe. “I used to fill up my grill with meat, put it on Facebook, and be sold out before the meat finished cooking.” He is hoping that his fans will bring more diners into the restaurant. “I want to serve more specialty sandwiches and make service fast — faster than fast food,” said Shoupe. “Life has grown faster for everybody, and people need their food fast.”
Although they may change the logo, too, the one thing that Shoupe is adamant that will not change is the name or staff. “This staff is the best staff anywhere. These ladies are amazing. I have seen the cooks get out 1,000 pieces of fried chicken for an emergency delivery while maintaining the buffet’s chicken requirements. I’d put sisters Patricia and Linda up against anybody,” said Shoupe.
He also wants to keep the name the same. “My great aunt Lou Purvis used to own this restaurant when it first opened many years ago, so it has come back into the family, and I am excited about that. I remember running around here when I was four years old. My dad did the electrical work. My grandmother, Marsha, was the hostess at the front, and our entire family would gather to eat here. Olde House has been a foundation of the community and is well-known, so I won’t be changing the name. So, we just decided to give it a go. Even in spite of Covid, we can get everything back to the way it was and add a few new things,” he added.
Shoupe is grateful the transition of ownership has been so smooth. “The paperwork has been unbelievable, but Donna and Tim have been wonderful and on site to help in every way they can. I can’t say enough about how amazing they have been. I can’t put a price on their help and advice,” said Shoupe.
Ian Padgett is in complete agreement. “I have known the Sumners for a long time. I went to high school with their son and Casey. I had an interest in owning a restaurant as an investment, and had talked to Casey about building and opening a restaurant that I would own with him and he would run. But since I come in here to eat all of the time, I was talking to the Sumners who mentioned they would like to retire one day. When I started looking at the cost of building a new building vs. owning one already running, I remembered the Sumners and contacted them,” said Padgett.
“We were hoping it would work out, and we were worried that because of Covid, this wasn’t the best time to get into the food service business, but really, this was the best time to buy it. It was well established, had proven numbers, was consistent, and had the best staff. So, we sat down with Tim and made it work,” he said. “We met with the staff at one time to ask if they wanted to stay after we took ownership. Every one of them wanted to stay, and we were grateful. They make this place run efficiently. It’s almost like running on autopilot. Everyone knows what to do and does it. And it really helps that the Sumners agreed to stay on for eight weeks and help us get acclimated.”
Padgett says that he agreed to go into business mainly because of Shoupe’s passion for cooking and serving people good food. Padgett plans to work behind the scenes with whatever needs to be done and whenever he is needed while Shoupe will run the restaurant. “We have a 50/50 partnership so that we both have a vested interest in the restaurant and want the best for it. I think it’s a good partnership,” he said.
Padgett is excited about bringing in new energy and technology with mobile apps, online ordering, google maps and a new Facebook page that will tell what the specials are and what’s on the bar that’s already available. “We hope to increase business by the first of the year,” said Padgett.
He praises his staff at IP Builders which is so efficient he is able to give some time to the restaurant. “I’m blessed because I have two diamonds in the staffs at IP and here at the restaurant. These people are the heart of these businesses; they can take care of everything when I am not here or there.”
Both Padgett and Shoupe are thrilled about their new endeavor and feel that the opportunity to own Olde House was something they could not pass up. “If we can be just half as successful as Tim and Donna Sumner have been for the past 26 years, then I will be happy,” said Shoupe.