After closing for much of the winter, The Plains’ famed coal mining town shop-turned craft beer hall and restaurant Eclipse Company Store reopened in recent weeks while undergoing a change in ownership.
The establishment is in the process of being acquired from current owner Jon Sowash by Larry’s Dawg House and Athens Steak ‘N Shake owner Jim Stricklin, alongside his brother Scott, friend Eli Fluornoy and Fluornoy’s daughter.
“I think Jim is an experienced and proven restaurateur and I think he can guide the place to a new level. We’ve had a lot of success up to now, lot of support from the community,” Sowash said in an interview. “I don’t have restaurant experience. My goal was to see the building preserved and restored and a new use that would be lasting and supported by the community.”
Sowash, an attorney, in recent decades helped to revitalize the encompassing Eclipse Company Town, a U.S. Department of The Interior and Ohio Historical Society designated historical location that was once home to a Hocking Valley Coal Company mine.
Stricklin, an Athens County native, had ancestors who lived in the company town homes and worked in the mine, according to Sowash.
“That’s a really cool piece of this whole story too that makes me excited about Jim’s involvement,” Sowash said.
Prior to Sowash, Sean Kiser of Kiser’s Barbeque owned Eclipse.
While both parties are waiting on the bank to approve a loan that will finalize the transaction, Sowash has given Stricklin and company the blessing to manage the business in the interim.
“Technically I’m not the owner, but I’ve essentially been given free rein like I am the owner. So, I’m making all the decisions — any upgrades or changes are being approved by me,” Stricklin said.
The loan could be finalized as early as June, he said, allowing him and the other co-owners to officially take the helm. Stricklin declined to disclose the acquisition’s price.
“This place was always run well (under Sowash). There was some little things that could have possibly been done better, but we’re not changing what this is. This is a beer hall,” Stricklin said.
Since becoming de-facto owners, Stricklin and the team repainted the restaurant’s interior, created an additional 15 parking spaces and installed ancillary lighting on the outdoor stage.
Eclipse’s dining room has also reopened with its seating capacity cut in half and the long horizontal tables — used to resemble a traditional German beer hall — dismantled, being placed into storage on the second floor in favor of round tables that can accommodate distancing. Ten outdoor picnic tables were also assembled.
While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine this week broadly lifted the state’s ban on mass gatherings, Stricklin is still waiting on additional guidance before moving forward with live music at the bar’s outdoor venue. He said the business is contacted daily by musical acts chomping at the bit to perform live after a year of not doing so. Eclipse doesn’t impose cover charges on patrons for concerts.
“The next concert you see is gonna be the best concert you’ve ever seen in your life because you haven’t seen anything for a year,” he said.