The Patriot Public House, a new restaurant currently under construction on West Main Street in Hillsboro, could be open in as few as six months, according to the restaurant’s owner, Angel Mootz.
Mootz and her husband, Jim, purchased lots encompassing 111-119 West Main St. in Hillsboro, including 115-119 from the Hillsboro Community Improvement Corporation, 117 from Helen Walton following the partial collapse of the former and demolition of building that was there, and 111-113 from Jeanine Rosselot with the original intent to restore and remodel.
But more than just a real estate transaction, the deal represented an opportunity to, “turn a longtime dream into reality,” according to a press release issued by the city of Hillsboro late last year.
Mootz’s family had a storied history in the Hillsboro restaurant business in the 1980s, at a time during which bars and restaurants dotted the historic district. Her father, Clyde Reffitt, who ran a trucking business among other industries, according to Mootz, had the opportunity to acquire Magee’s on West Main Street in Hillsboro for Mootz’s sister, Melody, and mother, Nellie, who had expressed to him an avid interest in owning a diner. Eventually, Mootz’s aunt, Vickie Reffitt, and uncle, Orville Reffitt, took over Magee’s, while Clyde bought a restaurant called Main Street Diner. It was there where Mootz recalled getting a taste of the restaurant industry by working, first at Magee’s, and then at the age of 13 at the diner that had been remodeled to her family’s specific stylistic expectations.
Following her father’s untimely and unexpected death five years later from “a massive heart attack,” Mootz said her mother and sister re-actively retreated from the restaurant business, and the building that housed it was eventually sold.
“My mom and my sister just lost the want to do it,” she said, noting that her father, “had a certain bar stool where he sat at the counter.” When he came in, “everybody knew that’s where he sat,” even to the point of standing up in deference upon his arrival. “He was such a big part of it,” said Mootz.
“They just couldn’t do it,” she said. “It just wasn’t the same without him.”
Now a restauranteur herself, Mootz said her father’s self-starting business acumen has proven to be an inspiration. “That’s where I get my entrepreneurship,” she said. “One of the things that my dad really liked is eagles,” Mootz said.
She said he collected all manners of eagle-related ephemera including pins, statues and other items.
She said that not only influenced the name of restaurant, but also inspired a plan for iconography of a mural she has planned for the exterior of the building. It will incorporate an image of an eagle in commemoration of her father.
For the interior, Mootz said she has even more plans and noted emphatically, “I’m very hands-on with this project,” working collaboratively with contractors in order to ensure that the materials and design are executed to her precise specifications.
Interior decorating of the restaurant is another area where Mootz has taken great pride and care. It will be done with a special emphasis on incorporating curated historical artifacts, including a bell by the C.S. Bell Co.that will sit outside the restaurant. The restaurant’s décor will include photographic imagery that celebrates and commemorates historic Hillsboro.
Mootz had enlisted the assistance of consummate Hillsboro historian Max Petzold, about whose archival collections she raved, and she revealed that it was a photo that was provided by Petzold after having had the opportunity to pore over historical photos of Hillsboro for many hours that ultimately inspired both part of the interior design for, as well as the name of, the restaurant.
“It was a picture of grown men and children waving flags,” she said, taken in Hillsboro presumably during historical wartime as a collective expression of shared ideals and pride.
Part of Mootz’s motivation to open the Patriot Public House was not only to continue in her family’s footsteps, but to be a part of economic revitalization in Hillsboro at a time when it is most needed.
“Hillsboro needs something,” she said, in the historic district. She discussed how people go out of town to eat because of a perceived dearth of local options. She said she hopes the Patriot Public House can not only accommodate a local demand for more diverse and exciting dining experiences, but bring in people from other places.
Unlike in the heyday of her family’s diners, social media has proven as a way to generate pre-emptive excitement for the restaurant’s opening.
Mootz said she is pleasantly surprised at how interest in the Patriot House has grown through its presence as a Facebook page, generating hundreds of followers and reactions.
Food is the most integral part of any restaurant and Mootz said that the Patriot House will boast an eclectic menu with American fare and even special family recipes from not only her family, but also from her husband, whose father was the winner of a World Plowing Championship.
Mootz said that Ranada Riley, a Food Network star who originally hails from Hillsboro but now serves as an elite and in-demand chef onboard yachts and other exclusive milieus, will be coming to Hillsboro to serve as a consultant for the chefs Mootz will eventually hire.
Despite this culinary provenance, Mootz said their offerings will by no means be, “over the top fancy. I want everyone to feel welcome here.”
Just as she got her start in the restaurant business under the tutelage of her family’s businesses, a third generation has stepped up to get involved in the family industry. Mootz said her daughter, Kylie Price, will be her service manager and assistant manager at the Patriot House, and that she is bringing with her a vast repertoire of experience in POS systems from previous restaurant experience at other establishments.
Mootz said that she and her daughter also go to lots of concerts.
“Morgan Wallen and mostly Morgan Wallen,” she laughed, adding that people have messaged her erroneously assuming that Price is dating Wallen (she is not) because of their enthusiastic propensity for attending concerts.
Music, Mootz said, will be an important part of the Patriot House experience. She said that scouting for openers and other acts, including potentially local musicians, is all part of the process because, “I’m going to have entertainment up here.”
Bringing her family’s restaurant business pedigree even more full circle, Mootz said, is the fact that in addition to Magee’s, her aunt and uncle had also owned the now demolished Prime Cut, which is now the address of the Patriot Public House.
“I always knew that I wanted my own restaurant,” she said.
The process of making that happen has not always been easy and unexpected complications have ensued. Some of those, Mootz said, have included supply chain delays, but also having to tear down a whole building that was originally to abut the restaurant because of its deteriorated condition. That, Mootz revealed, resulted in the need to move the new building site over from the position that had been originally planned in a pre-emptive rendering.
Still, Mootz’s entrepreneurial determination prevailed, despite having had to combat rampant naysayers. She recalled her mother’s initial reaction upon hearing her plan for the restaurant.
“At first, she thought I was crazy,” Mootz said, her plans initially coinciding with the pandemic and the associated caveats.
“Do you really want to do this?” she said people asked her. “Is this really something you want to devote your time to?”
Despite the concerns Mootz said, “I felt in my heart it was going to be OK. I’m a go-getter.”
Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.