What started off as one of the busiest years of the 20 that Mark and Connie Martin have been serving their famous family-style chicken dinners at the Brookville Hotel in Abilene ended Sunday, March 15.
“We determined there was not enough income for us to muddle,” said Mark Martin. Brookville had closed its dining room and was just serving carryout orders. “It would be working ourselves into a bigger hole than we already have. And so, at this point, if there is a potential at all, it might be Easter for us to open. Even then, it’s one of those things that we are wishing for but the wishes may not happen.”
The closing sent 33 full-time employees to the unemployment line and meant a loss of extra income for part-time workers.
With a large supply of food and products on hand, Martin and his wife Connie donated them to the Abilene public schools.
“I have some stuff that obviously is going to be outdated and I need to get that out,” he said.
Chickens, of course
The Martins donated almost everything: about 100 chickens, biscuit mix, spiced peaches, apple rings, potatoes, butter, pickles, canned goods, fresh cabbage, whipped cream, latex gloves, carryout boxes and bags, cups and even some stuffed animals.
“Who am I going to sell them to?” Martin said of the stuffed animals. “Not anybody for a while but they might make somebody’s day.”
Martin said the restaurant generally didn’t use frozen chicken but when overstocked, some were sent to the freezer.
“They are pretty utilizable,” he said. “We’ll just have to see if they have a use for it. It’s all going to age out.”
Caleb Angolo, Food Service Director, said there would definitely be a use for everything.
He said that on Thursday 928 lunch and breakfast combination meals were given out to the school district students. He expected over 1,000 on Friday.
“What is happening right now, we are thinking down the road we will start doing some hot meals,” Angolo said. “That is where all this will come into play.”
He said the school lunches are now cold items.
“Nobody saw this coming,” he said.
The school district is getting its food supplies from F&A Food Sales located in Concordia.
F&A Food Sales generally delivers once a week and has stepped it up to twice a week. He said milk is being delivered daily.
“My unfortunate feeling is that this is going to be far longer than we think,” Martin said.
He said the hotel parking lot across the street from the Brookville Hotel doesn’t have a lot of cars.
“Nobody’s going down the road,” he said.
Martin said 2020 looked to be a banner year for the Brookville Hotel.
“We had bunches of wedding caterings. We had a lot of tour bus business coming in from out of state: Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado. Lots of people were coming to the Eisenhower Library. Absolutely tons of people coming to the Eisenhower Library.
“This was supposed to be, potentially, a really good year for Brookville,” he said. “It truly is up in the air now.”
He said when there is travel from state to state again and the fear of getting on a tour bus or an airplane ends, they will look into reopening.
The Brookville Hotel traces its roots back to the 1870s when the railroad spread their tracks out across the prairie to meet the expected rush of Longhorn cattle coming up from Texas along the Chisholm Trail, according to its history.
In 1894 Gus and Mae Magnuson purchased the hotel. It was Mae’s cooking that started the hotel’s reputation for great food, but it was the Magnuson’s daughter, Helen Martin, who originated the famous “Family Style Chicken Dinners” in 1915. In 1933, the Hotel passed into Helen’s capable hands.
Additions were made to the Hotel in 1948 and 1960 by the third generation family member Cal Martin who became a partner in the management of the hotel. Further additions to the Hotel were made in 1971 and 1978, increasing the serving capacity to 200.
In 1982, the ownership of the hotel passed to Mark and Connie Martin, the fourth generation to serve the famous Brookville Family Style Fried Chicken.
In 2000, the decision was made to move the restaurant to Abilene, locating the restaurant closer to the Interstate Highway which brought a steady stream of people searching out the best fried chicken dinners in Kansas.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.