To say she’s a bit busier now would be no small understatement. She’s now the owner of Tally Ho Koffie and the Gray Wolf Saloon, located next to each other in Edgerton’s downtown.
Van Essen grew up near Chandler and has lived in the Edgerton area for 25 to 30 years. She went to college to become a medical lab technician, but that hasn’t kept her from becoming one busy businesswoman.
“Both the Tally Ho and Gray Wolf had been owned by Bill and Jeanette Bleyenberg,” Van Essen recalled on a February morning inside her coffee shop. “They had both places posted for sale for a couple years.
“How it all came about was, I suppose about a year ago, I started cleaning the bar for Bill, and then I started bartending for him,” she continued. “Then, he just kept dropping hints that I should look into buying the bar and the restaurant. This was always something me and my husband had had an interest in, and after a couple of months of discussion me and Rod decided to go for it.”
Van Essen took over ownership of the coffee shop and bar on Sept. 21, 2017. She employs about 15 people between the two businesses, all but one of them on a part-time basis. But even though the Tally Ho opens Mondays through Saturdays at 6 a.m. — and the Gray Wolf typically closes at 1 a.m. — it doesn’t mean she’s working around the clock.
“I have good, reliable help,” Van Essen said. “Typically I have another cook that opens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for me, so I don’t have to be here every morning. But other days, I’m up at 4:15 and here at 5 to get the coffee brewing, the muffins going, the cookies rolling.
“It’s nothing new to us. My husband, he’s a milk hauler, and he’s up at 3:30. We’re used to long days and working hard — we’re not scared of it.”
As far as the menu at the Tally Ho — where Rod assists with maintenance and is “slowly getting into the kitchen a little bit” — is concerned, Van Essen hasn’t done much tinkering. One change is that she offers more specials that aren’t on the regular menu, but as far as the coffee shop’s appearance and decor goes, she’s simply hoping to put on a fresh coat of paint someday.
At the Gray Wolf, the west side of the building is Edgerton’s fire hall and currently a banquet hall with a capacity of about 175 people.
“People want us to knock a wall out and put the bar into the banquet hall, but that’s probably not going to happen until a couple of a years from now,” Van Essen said, “We do some special events over there, like meetings, graduation parties, class reunions.”
Food isn’t cooked at the Gray Wolf, but it’s easily accessible. Van Essen said the Gray Wolf often has food brought over from the Tally Ho — so, for example, “if someone wants a beer with their burger, we’ll just deliver the burger over to the bar.”
There are far more than just burgers available at the Tally Ho, of course. Its clientele can also choose between soups, sandwiches, paninis and wraps, and specials often include meatloaf or pot roast. (“Something more home-cooked,” Van Essen said, smiling. “It depends on the mood of the cook that morning.”)
Tally Ho Koffie is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. About 75 percent of the evening meals, Van Essen said, are served at the Gray Wolf, which opens at 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
“At the Gray Wolf, we have five TVs … and we also kind of have the mentality of not only a bar, but almost like a liquor store,” she added. “We try to keep a variety of everything here.”
Van Essen said she’s considering opening the Gray Wolf around noon on Saturdays to give people a burger/beer lunch option. She also hopes to kick-start a pool league in the bar next year, as she would rent a couple of tables to make that happen.
The Van Essens still have a quarter section of land outside of town — the property has been in Rod’s family for generations — on which they raise livestock. Rod has two grown children from a previous marriage that live in Las Vegas, while Van Essen also has two children from her first marriage. The couple has two children together.
“Our 17-year-old, Joe, he actually started cooking here when Jeanette still had the place. He’s been here longer than I have,” Van Essen said. “And our 15-year old daughter (Maelyn), she’ll come in after school, and she knows how to make all the drinks.”
After just about six months in business, Van Essen is pleased with how things have been going.
“Business has been good. The Edgerton community is wonderful, and they’re really very supportive. It’s been really good.”
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