Hartsburg family restaurant is 'more than the money'

Saturday, March 23, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 15, 2013
Kyle Donnelly, a high school student at Southern Boone High School, waits tables at Claysville Store. The restaurant employs 25 people who help them serve on the weekend as waiters, hosts and in the kitchen.

COLUMBIA — The wooden walls of the Claysville Store seem to speak in a thick Missouri accent of the history of the Katy Trail and of the families the restaurant attracts every weekend.

A mural spanning the length of an entire wall was painted by a former employee and depicts what was once the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and is now the Katy Trail running in front of an old general store. 

The corner of the mural features a quote by American columnist Erma Bombeck and reflects the Christian faith of the Claysville Store owners: “When I stand before the Lord at the end of my life, I would hope to have not a bit of talent left — that I could say, 'I used everything you gave me.’” 

Co-owners Mark and Laura Hooibrink were inspired to begin remodeling the old general store on Claysville Road into a family style restaurant in 1993 after watching their children sell Kool-Aid to people using the trail. They opened in 1998.

“We’re a pretty tight-knit family, and I get a little sentimental about that. We want people to come here and feel at home,” Mark Hooibrink said.

An array of quilts made by the Hooibrink’s family members hang from ceiling beams and walls in the dining room, surrounding the tables with a sense of family. Some quilts are made from pieces of fabric from Laura’s childhood clothes. Mark fondly recognized one piece as part of Laura’s sundress from the 1970s.

The couple was married in 1979; Laura was 18 years old, Mark was 20. They have lived in the house next door to the restaurant since their wedding and raised three children together, each now married with children of their own.

Mark makes it his mission to step away from the sizzling pans of fried chicken in the kitchen to greet each table seated in the restaurant, and get to know them.

“That’s the joy of this job — meeting and greeting everyone that graces our door,” Mark Hooibrink said.

Over the years, the couple has developed many close friendships with regulars, he said. 

Only open Saturdays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., the restaurant serves 200 to 300 people, cooking on average 900 to 1,200 pieces of chicken.   

Behind the kitchen door, the Hooibrinks spend hours preparing items from scratch using some family recipes. Laura’s blackberry cobbler is a fan favorite, Mark Hooibrink said. The gooey dessert is a recipe passed down from Laura’s mother.

Reservations are recommended, but not required, to ensure customers do not have to wait to be seated. The restaurant is arout a 30-minute drive from Columbia and is located at 5650 E. Claysville Road.

The Hooibrinks realize their restaurant is a destination spot and try to ensure they plan in advance for each weekend’s crowd, Mark Hooibrink said.

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Harold Sutton March 23, 2013 | 10:01 a.m.

Mark and Laura are of the finest kind of people you would ever get to know. They have a pleasant, sincere greeting to everyone they meet whether a longtime acquaintance or total stranger. And they are not out front greeting patrons, thats for the young folks. Instead they are in the kitchen with Mark personally doing the chicken and Laura doing the desserts along with teaching the young folks how.

This world needs many, many more just like them!! And central Missouri is a better place, especially down at the bottom of the hill on Claysville road!!!

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