Laughners exit restaurant business after 122 years with Loon Lake Lodge closure

August 17, 2010
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Loon Lake LodgeThe Laughner family has closed the Loon Lake Lodge in Castleton, ending a 122-year run of operating restaurants in Indianapolis. Chip Laughner opened the wilderness-themed restaurant with a seaplane affixed to the roof in 1998, after the family's once-booming cafeteria business had faltered. "After 12 great years we have chosen to go into other avenues," the Laughner family says on the Loon Lake website. "We would like to thank all of our patrons who supported us throughout the years. At this time we say Au Revoir, or as Roy Rogers said 'Until we meet again.'" The 13,000-square-foot building on 2.6 acres northwest of Interstate 69 and 82nd Street is being offered for sale with an asking price of $2.8 million, said Steve Delaney, a principal with Sitehawk Retail Real Estate. The restaurant chain Quaker Steak & Lube, based in Sharon, Penn., is considering opening a restaurant in the building. Hotel developers also have expressed interest in the site, which is near several hotels including a Hampton Inn, Drury Inn and a Hilton. The last restaurants carrying the Laughner name shut down in 2001. The chain, in business since 1888, already had been downsizing its Laughner Cafeteria and Dutch Oven restaurant businesses when in 2000, a judge sentenced Richard Laughner, Chip's cousin and company president at the time, to prison for soliciting sex from a juvenile. Shortly thereafter, cafeterias in Franklin, Indianapolis and Kokomo closed. Watching the business' demise was brutal for 83-year-old Charles Laughner, who had led the restaurants in their heyday. He retired a few years ago but remained involved, with son Chip, in operating Loon Lake.

  • Quaker Steak - YES!
    Wow! Quaker Steak and Lube? All the way out here? I remember when it was a single location in an old gas station in PA. Those wings have really taken off.
  • And so it goes...
    We're losing a unique local family-owned single site restaurant and getting yet another national chain restaurant in its place. Yippee. One more step in the demise of Indianapolis.
    • And so it goes, again...
      Couldn't have said it better myself, Scott.
    • Get over it.....
      I think it's great to already have a potential buyer for this site. I hardly see it as another step in the demise of Indianapolis. I wasn't aware that chain restaurants were the cause of demise in metro cities. Empty buildings are an eyesore.
      • Deposits
        Did you ask the owners if they will be refunding the money they have taken for parties and wedding rehearsal dinners!!
      • Steaked out!
        We really enjoyed LLL and will miss it. Maybe, in addition to 'racing capital of the world' and 'amateur sports capital', Indy should be known as the crappy burger and steak chain restuarant capital of the world. And yes, I have dined--scratch that--eaten at--a Q S& L. There is one in Portage, IN.
      • So?
        Apparently some of you didn't read the part where it said hotel developers may be interested in the site as well. Quaker Steak is only a possibility. And given that so many feel that the food at LLL was subpar and overpriced, it's not as if a chain restaurant would be a dropoff. If you want a good steak from a local restaurant, Peterson's is just up the road.
      • LLL
        LLL had a good run. They would not be closing if they were making money. Hopefully something special will move in and it won't take as long as it did for the Bahama Breeze location to be occupied. I see activity at the old Smokey Bones on 82nd. Hopefully we will have even more, great variety to choose from.
      • Laughners
        I still miss Dutch Oven and Laughner's Cafeteria at Southern Plaza. My friend loved Loon Lake Lodge, although their food wasn't my favorite. Oh well, one less reason to travel to Castleton.
      • Amen to that!
        Peterson's is the best restaurant in Indianapolis. Hands down!
      • Easy To Please
        WOW! Pertersons..Did you say Petersons,...Petersons...WOW! are you easy to please.
      • 69/465
        I'm sure the pending construction has something to do with the closing.
      • Miss Laughners
        I also miss the Laughners Cafeteria but I miss the one at Washington St and 465 on the East side. Always a line! Always had great specials. MCL is okay but Laugners was the bomb.

        Quaker Steak and Lube had "coming soon" to Indianapolis for a while, on their website. I really don't know about all of the "anti-chain" sentiment. There are great examples of both chain and locally owned restaurants here. I'll take more NEW of both, as long as they are good.
        • Boo to the loss of a local place
          It is always too bad to see a local restaurant go away, even if some thought it was overpriced.

          Even with this loss, if you think Indy doesn't have a lot of great local eateries around, you need to open your eyes and get out of Castleton. Granted, we could use a few less chains, but a visit to a chain should be a rarity given the plethora of local options these days.

          The Indianapolis restaurant scene has come a long way in the nearly 15 years I've lived here.
        • I agree
          If you travel south of 86th street (discounting immediete downtown) there are a ton of great and local places to try......Fountain Square has some great affordable options if price is a concern
        • Locals
          There are fantastic locals around Broad Ripple and the 54th Street Corridor - Zest, Marco's, Mama Carolla's to name only a VERY few. All you chain haters realize, that basically a restaurant chain is a successful restaurant that expanded. By hating chains it's like hating people who had a good idea that caught on. Excuse them for daring to expand their successful businesses.

          Indianapolis by no means, wins the award for most chains. Many other cities have just as many, if not more. If you're tired of chains then seek out the good locals we have - and there are many, but you may have to drive south of 86th Street.

          I remember eating at the Laughner's on the east side with my grandparents as a kid. It's a shame they all closed and I still think of it whenever I drive past that weedy lot where it used to be.
        • Laughners/Loon Lake
          First of all, the Laughner in question regarding jail time was a cousin, NOT BROTHER.
          Charles could no more be held responsible for that persons actions than Beurt Servaas could be blamed for your incorrect ident as Charles's brother. Lets remember, from the beginnings of downtown in 1888 to Riverside amusement park in the early 1900's where some of our great grandparents as children enjoyed Laughners food and hospitality, to Laughners drive-in where many of us and our parents cruised the 50's, to Dutch oven where as many as 5000 pies were sold each year the day before Thanksgiving, the cafeterias from Kokomo to Terra haute and all over the city, countless celebrations and family gatherings were held through many generations that in most hearts are priceless. "Johnathons Keep" one of the finest upscale dinner houses in the country, a business and family that survived countless rough times including THE GREAT DEPRESSION, who always were totally and completely Indiana, have left our scene Everyone should stand and applaud a great resilient family. There is none better. God Bless you Charles and yours....Jim Roberts
          • Loon Lake Lodge
            It should be noted that Richard Laughner IS NOT Chip's brother - he is his cousin and has had nothing to do with the restaurants since he went to jail.
          • LLL
            Well said... The same Jim Roberts that was chef at Sheraton Meridian in 1986?
            • Correction
              Jim and Barb: I have updated the post to correct the error. My apologies. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
            • Sheraton Meridian Yes
              Great Memory
            • Chains
              Note: Laughner's was a "chain". MCL is. So are Yat's and Union Jack. But all are examples of locally-owned restaurants that were popular enough to expand into multiple locations.
            • bleh....
              While I loved Laughners, Loon Lake Lodge was ok, at best, and I would be reluctant to suggest it was a "great" local option. It was a gimmick much like Rainforest Cafe, albeit not quite as successful (obviously).

              I see nothing wrong with chain restauraunts. If they are moving into the area then they obviously feel at ease with the local business environment which I see as a good thing. And like many have pointed out, Indianapolis is no longer a city devoid of local options. All you have to do is open your eyes and get out of Castleton and Greenwood. It's funny that we equate the lack of popular chain retail destinations with not quite being "big time", but at the same time put down the presence of national chain food places.
            • 86th
              Granted, I don't care that much about 86th Street strip malls, gas stations, or outlots.

              But, even if Loon Lake was local, it had the feel of some schlocky chain.
            • Great article
              This is what makes IBJ worth reading, online or in print. The Star's coverage was not much more than reprinting the notice from the Loon Lake Lodge web site. Thanks for providing an article with background and insight and for doing the legwork that is good business journalism.
            • Charles Laughner
              Charles Laughner, the main guy himself will be appearing on channel 8's "INDY STYLE" this Friday from 9am to 10am, with myself preparing and old DUTCH OVEN pie recipe and SHRIMP CHARLES...PLEASE WATCH....JR
            • LLL
              So...what will happen to the chef at LLL? Any idea Jim Roberts?
              • Long Time Coming
                Food was good, but that was it. Overpriced, bad service and broken animatronic animals in 2002. It should have closed then. Havent been back since, and others havent either. They didnt keep up with the competition.
              • MCL is Laughner
                Is George Laughner related to this family? He and another guy started MCL according to their website. So maybe the Laughner family isn't exiting the restaurant business after all, or maybe just one family is?
              • then move
                "the demise of indianapolis"? You have no clue what you are talking about. How about adding some color behind your comments or just move to another city...
              • What will happen to the Chef at Loon Lake
                I am Looking my friend, have a family to fees
              • LLL wasn't cutting it...
                Went one time with my family of 5... dropped more money than normal, bad service, food was ok, atmosphere was just weird.. Cobwebs, dim light, animals that don't work... How in the world can you expect to stay open in this economy like that. When an owner stops investing in his business he needs to pull the plug.
              • richard taylor
                this is a very good site.
                business for sale sunshine coast
              • Support your independents
                Support your local eateries or get used to more national chains feeding you plastic for dinner. We have great restaurants in them!!
              • Well Said, Scott
                I was always proud to take my out of town guests to the Dutch Oven. It was truly unique and a bright spot in the city. It is extremely hard to break into the restaurant biz due to huge chains with real clout in buying being the competition. Every time we lose one of these local restaurants, the whole city suffers.
              • Agreed
                Yep - Applebees is not an eyesore, Eastgate Shopping Center is. If you go to Broad Ripple you can find plenty of Mom and Pop Restaurants - the sky hasn't fallen in yet.
              • Managers Wife
                It was horrible for the families who worked for Laughner's and the Dutch Oven to see it go. It was sad to see a family business that employed hundreds of people and fed generations in Central Indiana fall to pieces and finally close due to Richards sick leadership. It was a horrible shame for his family and friends. AS for MCL it was started by a former Laughner's family member and many of the recipes are the same. But boy do I miss those pies!
              • it's sad.
                I worked for laughners for 20 years.kokomo, castleton,franklin miss most of the people I worked with.Lot of good memory's hope your doing good GARTH and Charles Laughners.

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