Local diner fading into the past


CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – One local summer hot spot is slowly fading into history. The Clear Lake Barrel Drive-In is for sale, and it may have a buyer, but not for the business, for the lot. That could mean a total tear down.

“It kind of all started last year. I’ve had a lot of breakdowns and stuff like that. I just can’t keep up with the place anymore,” says Barrel Drive-In Owner, Seth Thackery.

He has worked at the drive-in since age 14. Recently though, he is struggling, financially, to keep up the place.

“I have a lot of memories here, and I am sure a lot of other people do too. I’d hate for something that has been around for 60 years or so go away, but I kind of feel like I’m in a corner and I don’t really have much of a choice at this point,” says Thackery.

The Barrel was established in 1958 and was the local hot spot. Long-time customer, Phyllis Steinberg, can remember spending time there in her younger days.

“I can remember back in the 1950’s when they had the hula hoop contest on top of the roof, says Steinberg.

“Traditions and times are changing, so my customer base is kind of falling off,” says Thackery.

When he bought the business, he had intentions of restoring the drive-in to its former glory, but it’s more expensive than he thought.

“Since I bought the place, I’ve never drawn a salary. I’ve constantly just tried to fix the place up,” says Thackery.

Now, he is looking at selling. Casey’s General Store is next door. Their corporate office has approached him with interest, not in the business, but the lot, meaning a total tear down. Which Thackery really doesn’t want to see happen.

“My neighbors here seem a little interested in purchasing the place, so we’ve been talking about that. I’d love to see someone buy it and keep it what it is,” he says.

If he hears back from Casey’s, he will most likely move ahead if another offer doesn’t present itself. Otherwise, he says he will keep the Barrel going as long as he can.

“I’ll keep working. I’ll keep the doors open. If I have a good year, then it could stay open longer, if not, I have to do what’s right for me I guess,” he says.

So, he is really hoping another possibility presents itself.

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