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Valparaiso’s Strongbow Inn Changing Owners

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After more than 70 years, Valparaiso’s Strongbow Inn will have owners outside of founder Bess Thrun’s family. Proprietors Russ and Nancy Adams announced that Strongbow is being sold to the Luke Company. The sale is expected to close on September 1, but transition will take place on July 8, 2013.
Russ Adams reflected on the Inn’s family history in a meeting with staff today to announce the sale, saying “this is the end of an era and a very bittersweet time for Nancy and me.” Adams said the opportunity presented itself and with current economic conditions and increased competition for food and expendable dollars, they made the decision to move on. “Sometimes when a door unexpectedly opens, you have to see what’s on the other side,” Adams said, adding that he and Nancy had considered selling before but had always held on. “This time the timing was right and we feel very good about the Luke Company’s commitment to continuing the legacy of quality food and service that Strongbow has been known for all these years,” he said. “It had to be the right people.”
Strongbow Turkey Farm was started in the 1930’s by Dr. Walter and Bess Thrun (Russ Adams’ grandparents) and named for the Pottawattamie Indian chief who lived on the land with his tribe in the 1800’s. In 1940  Bess Thrun opened the Strongbow Turkey Inn on US Hwy 30 in Valparaiso with 28 seats. Known for the turkey the Thruns raised on the farm across the highway the first menu included hot and cold turkey and the now-famous Strongbow Turkey Pie. Over the years Strongbow has grown to not only a sizeable restaurant but also includes banquet facilities that accommodate up to 500 people. Strongbow currently employs 130 people.
Adams said that he is proud of what Strongbow has meant to his family – with his mother Chuggie and father Chuck running the business from 1951-1993 when Russ and Nancy took over. “We know that Strongbows helped put Valpo on the map,” he said. “Who could have known that a roadside turkey restaurant with live turkeys across the street would become the icon that it is today.”
Finally Adams said, “Most of all, Nancy and I want to thank our parents, our children, our amazing employees, and most of all our loyal customers. It is hard to say good bye, but we say it with pride for our heritage and legacy, and with humility and gratitude for all that Strongbow has given to us.”
The Luke Company is a family owned and operated company based in Hobart, Indiana that was founded in 1967 by Ralph Luke.  It is owned by Tom Collins Sr., Tom Collins Jr., and Ryan Richardson and has grown to include 25 C-Stores, the $5 Carwash and County Line Orchard.  The Luke organization currently employs approximately 400 associates
“Our family has been patrons of this storied establishment for over 3 decades.  What kept us coming back each year as customers is what also drew our interest in being the next owners of Strongbow Inn.” said Tom Collins Jr.  He added, “The long family history, strong brand, solid reputation and delicious food are vital to the past and future success of this famous restaurant.”  
“As new owners our family is excited to work with and learn from the current staff and Adams family to insure that the many traditions that have been built from generation to generation continue on into the next chapter of the Strongbow Inn”, said Ryan Richardson.
What has made this transition possible is that both families recognized the core value of the Strongbow Inn which is best said in the words of Caroline “Chuggie” Adams , “The Strongbow tradition stands for beautiful food, good times, celebrating family traditions, and memories for everyone to cherish.  The Luke family will work closely with the Adams Family, current staff and loyal customers to see that these values are carried on for decades to come.
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