For the owners of Biker Bistro at the Coneburg Inn, opening a new business in Peabody is a bit more like coming home than most people realize.
Larry and Charlotte Hoffner grew up in Marion County and the surrounding area. Larry’s mother, Erma Hoffner, spent many years working at the Coneburg Inn with owner Shirley Strotkamp and was a familiar face in the Peabody community.
Both Larry and Charlotte attended Marion High School and Charlotte, whose maiden name was Poppe, graduated from MHS in 1964.
“Our roots are here,” Larry said. “I didn’t spend much time in Peabody as kid, but I was around Marion and Florence a lot.
“After we were married we lived in Newton for awhile and when my mom moved here we made many trips to Peabody.”
The couple moved to Lenexa in 1988 and still have a residence there.
“I am pretty much retired now from my trucking business, but Charlotte wants keep working for a few more years and then if things are successful here, we’d like to move to Peabody and be more active in the day-to-day operation,” Larry said.
Larry and Charlotte are both avid Harley riders.
“We have traveled all over the country and been to rallies in different states,” he said. “We have been to lots of biker bars and owning one is something I always thought I might like to do.”
He said he has had his eye on the Coneburg for quite awhile. Retiring from trucking gave him the chance to pursue the dream.
“Shirley [Strotkamp] is like family to us,” he said. “She has been a big help getting this off the ground. She and my mom were close so there is a history there and we feel like we are part of a tradition.”
The Hoffners have mixed feelings about the process of getting the bar and restaurant up and running.
“It was more frustrating than we thought it would be,” said Larry. “It took awhile to get our liquor license — sometimes the government moves at its own speed. And there were some repairs that bogged us down. But we didn’t want to open without everything being ready.”
“But it’s also been more fun than we thought it would be once we got it open,” Charlotte added. “We enjoy meeting people and mingling with them. It has been rewarding; everyone has been friendly.”
The couple installed a suggestion box by the front door and they encourage patrons to let them know what they like or what they would like to see done differently.
“We really had no intention of getting a pool table in here,” Larry said.
“But,” Charlotte said, nodding in the direction of a pool table, “you’ll notice we now have one!”
Early suggestions indicated their patrons would appreciate that form of recreation. They hope to act on several other suggestions as well.
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to get President Bush in here as a comedy act like one person wanted,” Larry said. “But we do want to try some live music or karaoke, get some local talent to perform.
“And we want to expand the menu a bit. We understand there is a tradition of a Mexican food night once a week. We would like to try that or maybe chili or spaghetti; a mountain oyster feed now and then. We are open to those things and will try to add them as time goes on,” he said.
Asked if there was one thing they would like the Peabody community to know, Larry said, “Only that they are all welcome here. We’d like for them to come see us and give us a chance. We’ll learn, and we promise to give it our best as we go.
“We have never done anything like this before, but we are looking forward to it and are enjoying it so far. And it’s nice to be back where we have roots after all these years.”