Sabetha Main Street’s Buzz Café celebrates 90 years of business

This sign hangs above the Buzz Café at 820 Main in Sabetha.

Buzz Café has become a staple business in Sabetha over the years; and now after multiple owners, a location change, and an addition to its name, Buzz Café will be celebrating 90 years in business with an open house next week.

Current owners Troy and Sheri Lay, along with their children Leighanne Farwell, Jessica Lay, Kelsie Wehner and Bryson Lay, and current staff will be hosting an open house Wednesday, May 16, to celebrate the success of the longtime Sabetha restaurant.

The open house will begin at 6 a.m. when complimentary homemade donuts and coffee mugs will be offered; and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. complimentary pie bars and coffee mugs will be offered. T-shirts will be available for purchase as well.

Buzz Café’s History

In a Herald Archive Photo From Yesteryear, Harry “Buzz” Brumbaugh, left, the original owner-operator of Buzz Café in Sabetha, and his brother, Herbert Brumbaugh, right, sit in the café at its current location at 820 Main. This photo was originally submitted to The Sabetha Herald by Lauri Wilson, whose Aunt Evelyn married Howard Robinson in their “sunset years.” Robinson purchased the business from Herbert Brumbaugh in 1941.

Harry “Buzz” Brumbaugh opened The Buzz Sandwich Shop in the mid-1920s. The Buzz Sandwich Shop was located on the south side of Main Street, just west of City Hall in a part of the old Hotel building.

On May 16, 1928, the sandwich shop was moved across the street to 820 Main Street and changed to The Buzz Café, which was a full serving restaurant. At that time, Harry’s brother Herbert Brumbaugh, came into the business. Herbert later took control and operated the The Buzz Café until June 1, 1941, when it was sold to brothers, Carroll and Howard Robinson.

The Robinson brothers operated the business for over 30 years – until June 1972 – when they sold to it to Dave and Virginia Mars.

The Mars’ owned The Buzz Café until 1978, when they sold it to Irene Lehman and Charlotte Aberle.

Lehman and Aberle owned the restaurant until 1986 when they sold it to Gene and Peg Bockerstett.

In March 1992, the Bockerstetts sold the café to Dennis Rethman. It was at this time that Rethman added the Oxen House to the café, thus renaming the business Buzz Café and Oxen House.

In November 1996, Rethman sold it to MaryAnn and Virginia Spellmeier.

On June 16, 2001, current owners T. and S. Lay purchased the business and changed the name back to its original, Buzz Café.

Lays and Buzz Café

With no business experience or culinary education, the Lays purchased Buzz Café in 2001.

“Buzz Café is a long-standing icon of its community, known for its homemade meals and pies,” T. Lay said. “To even consider purchasing such a business, was to say the least, intimidating. Neither Sheri nor I had any business experience or culinary education. What we did have was community backing, complemented with a hard work ethic and a strong family – with a long line of good cooks.”

The Lays are still going strong after owning Buzz Café for 17 years

“I remember thinking it would take five to 10 years to even begin to feel like a business owner,” T. Lay said. “We just never have defined ourselves that way. The fact is, we still don’t. I think that has been our greatest strength. Not looking at what our community could do for us, but what we could do for our community. Our house has been open to many, and the Café has acted as an extension of our home.”

Small town cafés are the heartbeat of their communities, T. Lay said when asked why he believed Buzz Café has been such a strong business for 90 years.

Current owners of Buzz Café Troy and Sheri Lay and their family smile for a photo outside of Buzz Café Monday, May 7. Buzz Café will be celebrating 90 years of business on Wednesday, May 16, with an open house. Pictured are (L-R) Bryson Lay, Troy Lay, Sheri Lay, Leighanne Farwell, Jessica Lay and Kelsie Wehner.

“They are a place where you can walk in and yell ‘the usual’ and get exactly what you wanted,” he said. “It’s a place where you can take clients, family, schoolmates, organizations, hold lectures, or find time for yourself; a place where weary travelers can find a place to refuel and relax before moving on, all the while imprinting a pleasant memory or experience that will hopefully draw people back to visit your downtown and other business opportunities.”

T. Lay said they have learned many things over the years, but one thing has always stuck with him.

“A very wise businessman told me that many will come with ideas and suggestions. If he had listened to all the experts, he would not be in business today,” he said. “Follow your own instincts based off your own experiences and you will be successful. If you have trouble getting a job done, find the busiest man in town and he will show you the way. The guy knew what he was talking about.”

“We are appreciative of the community and all the people that have traveled to visit and supported us for the past 17 years,” T. Lay said. “We want to give a special shout out to the business community that stepped up and helped a naive couple gain their footing, giving them the opportunity to become what they had the potential to become. As busy as they were, they still found the time. Prime example of how stable businesses help their community grow.”

“We are appreciative for the support of our customers to keep this small town legacy alive,” T. Lay said. “We look forward to continue to serve the community and make many more memories in the years to come.”

Heather Stewart292 Posts

Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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