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All they wanted was a truck: Now, family from Wales owns restaurant in Huntington

Coach & Horses Restaurant

Carol and Dave Thomas, right, along with daughter Stephanie Thomas and J.D. Cheney stand outside their newly acquired restaurant building in Huntington. The family from Wales came to Huntington to buy a truck, and ended up deciding to stay.

What started out as a trip to Huntington to say "thanks" to a local business turned out to be a life-changing event for a couple from Wales.

David and Carol Thomas made the trip in June to express their appreciation to Pace Automotive Group for what they considered a positive Internet purchase experience. The couple checked in at the AmeriHost Inn on Theater Avenue and, due to unforeseen circumstances, ended up staying in Huntington longer than they had anticipated. One thing led to another and before they left Indiana, they had put in an offer to purchase the former Scher's Canal Café on Theater Avenue.

"My husband likes his cars," Carol Thomas said Wednesday morning before the couple left for Indianapolis to begin their journey back to Wales. David Thomas' search for a Ford F-250 Harley Davidson Special Edition pickup truck led him to Huntington. "He tracked one down at Pace Automotive and he bought it over the Internet."

The Thomases had some reservations about making such a long-distance purchase, but their fears dissipated once the vehicle reached its destination in Wales.

"It was absolutely as it was described," Carol explained. "David was completely satisfied with it." He was so happy, in fact, that he suggested they fly to the United States to express their appreciation to the staff at Pace in person. "He said 'let's go over to Huntington to say thank you.'"

The couple made the trip to Huntington in June, planning to stay just a few days. But they liked the area and the people so well they felt compelled to stay for a few more days.

"We really liked it so we decided to stay a little longer," Carol said.

A trip to the emergency room at Parkview Huntington Hospital led to surgery for Carol, and the couple's trip was extended yet again.

The Thomases' room at AmeriHost provided them a clear view of the former restaurant across the street, and the couple's minds began to wander.

"It was literally right out our bedroom window," Carol said of the building.

The Thomases learned the property was for sale and decided to take a look at it. They liked what they saw and, after talking with a number of people from the area, decided to make an offer.

"It sounded like a good idea," Carol said of buying the restaurant. "We made a preliminary agreement to purchase in June."

The couple returned to Wales but came back in early August to finalize the purchase and look for a place to live as they plan to move to the states.

"We've been here six weeks," she said, referring to their most recent trip. They put in an offer on a house in Huntington County, contingent on the Thomases' selling their home in Wales. They took possession of the restaurant last Friday. "Now we've got the task of getting it up and running."

The Thomases plan to call their new business The Coach and Horses, which Carol says is a "traditional British pub name." The facility will offer British and American foods as well as alcoholic beverages, and the Thomases plan to offer their fair at "good prices so everyone can afford it." They hope to have the business open by Thanksgiving, Carol added.

Carol admitted that neither she nor David have any experience in the restaurant business but say they are looking forward to their new endeavor. Their daughter, Stephanie, plans to the move to the states with them and will help them run The Coach and Horses.

The family has several horses back in Wales and Stephanie previously showed them until she suffered an injury. Recently, she has offered carriage rides for special occasions like weddings and birthdays.

"She has a beautiful coach at home" that she will bring to Huntington when the family moves, Carol said. She'll also bring along "her favorite horse," but the others will have to be left behind. "It's expensive to bring them over - around $8,000 per horse."

The Thomases have also found someone to manage the restaurant. J.D. Cheney, who lives in the South Bend area, will handle that aspect of the business for the couple.

While the Thomases have much to do in Wales before they can come to Huntington permanently, they can't wait to get started with the next chapter in their lives.

"We love it here," Carol said. "We've met so many wonderful people. We love the pace of life, we love the people. It was a very easy decision" to buy the restaurant and make the move. "We're hoping to open a place that will please a lot of people."

The preceding is a reprint of a story by JUDY FITZMAURICE, Staff Writer of the Huntington Herald Press on 9/21/2006.  Photo by Herald-Press/Joel Philippsen.

2817 Theater Ave. in the Northpoint Business Park.  Adjacent the Huntington 7 Theaters.  Huntington, Indiana.

Enjoy the new patio at the Coach & Horses

Coach & Horses Restaurant

Conveniently located in NORTHPOINT BUSINESS PARK

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