Willard Restaurant was a fixture in the Bexley community for over 60 years. When it opened in the Village of Bexley in 1925, the restaurant shared a space with Wentz Pharmacy across from Capital University. In 1927, Willard moved across the street to the northwest corner of Main Street and Drexel Avenue. Finally, in 1934, it moved to 2143 E. Main Street, where it remained until closing in 1988. In later years, this location also featured an ice cream parlor and a carryout service for the restaurant’s food.
Willard was founded by Willard Wendt, who started the restaurant as a place where people could come to get good food at a good price and would be able to socialize. In his second location, he put a ping pong table in the basement and would happily play a game with anyone when he had the time. The Bexley High School class of 1928 had their graduation party in the basement of this location. Many Capital University students came here to enjoy a home cooked meal.
Willard Wendt sold the restaurant in 1980 and passed away in 1983. After the restaurant closed in 1988, several businesses called the building home. The first, Touchstone Café, was a restaurant that also served as a training facility for people who were developmentally disabled or who had mental illness. The staff participated in a 15 week training program and were then placed in food service jobs around the community. After Touchstone Café closed in 1996, the building was home to Suburban Grill for a short time, and later to Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf closed in June 2005, and the building was demolished shortly thereafter.
Photos Courtesy of Bexley Historical Society
“Wendt Helped Make History” by Craig McDonald Eastside Messenger pages 1 and 6, January 2, 1984 “Touchstone Café Opens” by Monica Szonn Bexley News pages 1 and 19, July 11, 1990 “Touchstone training experiment ends officially with asset buyout” by Doral Chenoweth Columbus Dispatch July 22, 1996 “Changes on Main- Development projects could alter the look of downtown Bexley” by Mike Pramik Columbus Dispatch July 19, 2005 “The Willard Story” compiled by Helen March, Bexley Historical Society June 1985