Story Inn’s next chapter starts with new faces


A young couple is bringing a fresh view and a fresh look to Story, the town-turned-resort in Van Buren Township.

Jacob Ebel, originally from Columbus, has a history with the Story Inn. He worked there as a sous chef fresh out of culinary school.

While working at a resort in Alaska, he met his future wife, Kate, a chef from Texas.

When they married, they began looking for a place to settle down, and Brown County beckoned.

Owner Rick Hofstetter was reluctant at first about taking on a partner, Ebel said. But the 20 percent annual growth the business has experienced was more than one person could handle, Ebel said.

The couple arrived last year just after the July flood, and one of Ebel’s first duties as the new general manager was to oversee the repairs on the basement bar.

Though little product was lost, the water rose to four feet in the bar and required the furnace and cooler to be replaced.

Since then, the couple have presided over a renovation of the restaurant, repainting and organizing the shelves of antiques to more closely resemble the presentation of an actual country store, Ebel said.

There are plans to restore the rusted metal panels that cover the exterior of the building, Ebel said. He has been able to find the original company that made the panels and is ordering replicas.

He expects the project to take around two years.

The general store, which replaced a building that burned around 1916, is approaching its 100th anniversary, Ebel said.

With Indiana celebrating its bicentennial this year, the timing is ripe to do some general restoration, making the town look as it would have 100 years ago, Ebel said.

That will mostly involve small touches such as new picket fences, he said. In the guest cottages, the work will center on restoring the bathrooms and putting in better mattresses.

The goal is to provide some basic modern comforts while maintaining the sense of authenticity that draws guests to the resort, Ebel said. There will still be no TVs or radios in guest cottages.

History, dining and lodging are the three main draws for the resort, Ebel said — and the draw is diverse.

During one weekend last year, Story was visited by around 150 horseback riders and 100 cyclists and hosted a wine tasting.

Kate Ebel, who is director of events and sales, has weddings booked two years in advance, she said.

Story also has a new head chef, Eric Swanson, and a new wine director, Troy Taber.

Taber has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years and Swanson for around 10, and Taber has already tripled the size of their wine selection, Ebel said.

In early March, the Ebels walked the gardens behind the inn and near the parking lot and discussed the wildflowers that are grown for weddings and the herbs used in the kitchen.

Jacob Ebel pointed to where spinach and peas have been planted and said they may double production. What does not come directly from the garden comes from Indiana farms — even the meat — and the menu is dictated, in part, by the season, Ebel said.

The couple said they want to find ways to appeal to the younger tourism market, while staying connected with everything that has made Story unique and successful.

One such concept is to have “beer dinners,” pairing of craft beers with food in the tradition of the inn’s wine dinners.

Once their gardens are producing, they would also like to do short tours to show people where their food is coming from, Jacob Ebel said.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.