Ryan Gengler and Ben Rash of Silverton bought the restaurant and lounge after it had been closed for more than a year and hope to reopen this winter.

Photo Credit: JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Ben Rash (left) and Ryan Gengler standing behind the bar at The Gallon House in Silverton -- their hometown.Bar owners Ryan Gengler and Ben Rash took a chance when they purchased the rundown White Horse Restaurant and Lounge in Molalla two months ago.

Since then, they’ve come up with a plan to renovate the White Horse and restore some luster to the former downtown landmark that has sat dormant for more than a year.

Gengler and Rash have had success with similar makeovers at bars in Mt. Angel and Silverton, turning a couple of potential money pits into money makers.

They’re still not sure if they’ll keep the White Horse name or try something new, but they’re confident that they can reopen their newest acquisition before the end of the year.

The White Horse needs a facelift -- and is about to get one. When it's all said and done, will it still be called The White Horse?“When you buy one of these places, you honestly don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gengler said. “You don’t. You never know.

“Our mindset going into it is this: If we can do a little bit better than the last guy, then we’ll make it. If we can do decent enough sales, just improve it a little bit — that’s all we look at each time we go into a place.”

Why the White Horse? Why now?

“Molalla needs something else,” Rash said. “What’s the ultimate answer? We want to be successful.

“What did we see when we first starting looking? It was the right deal at the right time for us. We see Molalla as an untapped market with people there who want something different.”

Gengler, 32, and Rash, 31, grew up in Silverton. They graduated from Silverton High School, Gengler in 2000 and Rash a year later.

Getting started

The two jumped into the bar business together in June of 2010 when they took over Larry’s Saloon on Main Street in Mt. Angel on a lease agreement, gave it a makeover, and reopened it as The Bierhaus.

“It worked out well,” Gengler said.

The new White Horse could have a look similar to this -- The Gallon House in Silverton.In July of last year, they added a second bar, renovating Pudge’s Pub on the corner of Oak and 1st Street in downtown Silverton and reopening it as The Gallon House.

“The biggest key to our success has been consistently reinvesting money into the business,” Rash said. “If you’re not evolving, you just go stale. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, right?

“In Mt. Angel, we started with 12 taps and after year one we went to 32. The second year we expanded the outdoor seating. In the last year, we took the plunge and bought the building, so next we’re going to upgrade the facade over there.”

Gengler and Rash bought the White Horse for $289,000, according to the Realtor Multiple Listing Service. The building at 106 E. Main St., was built in 1927 and was home to three separate businesses — a butcher shop, a small restaurant, and the OK Tavern — during the ‘40s and ‘50s.

The OK Tavern was renamed The White Horse about 1970 and expanded into a 5,227 square-foot establishment that had a reputation for good food, good drinks, and live music and dancing during its heyday.

Reclamation project

In April 2013, the business closed and the property went into foreclosure. The previous owner removed the signage, along with most of the furniture, fixtures and equipment, as well as the iconic horse statue the was perched above the front door.

The broker who handled the sale also noted that the building had a newer membrane roof that appears structurally sound, “but needs extensive interior and exterior cosmetic work.”

Gengler said the renovations he and Rash envision will take a few months to complete and cost an estimated $100,000.

“When you buy the building, you’re committed,” Gengler said. “So, we’re committed to what we’re going to do in Molalla. When we go in and start remolding, we’re not going to cut any corners because we own the place. You might as well do it right the first time, or you can pay later to do it again.

“It’s going to cost a pretty penny, but we don’t want to do it twice. The final number depends on a lot of different variables and some of it’s up in the air still. We have the main plan done, and now we’re to the point in the process where we’re trying to tackle all the little details.”

Out with the old ...

Crews have already started gutting the building’s interior, and it won’t be long before they start tearing down the outside siding that has covered the building’s front windows for years.

“We want to let the sunlight in,” Gengler said. “And we want a clean place. That’s the No. 1 thing. It’s got to be clean and it needs to look inviting.”

The new White Horse will probably be set up much like The Bierhaus and The Gallon House, featuring a full bar with 32 taps, dispensing some of the region’s most popular craft beers, including Awesome Ales (Portland), Breakside Brewery (Portland), Boneyard Beer (Bend), Flat Tail Brewing (Corvallis), Georgetown Brewing (Seattle), and Worthy Brewing (Bend).

As for food, The Gallon House menu has appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, flat breads, and pasta, and most items are priced between $9-$12.

“We have a concept that we use and, ideally, you don’t want to stray too far from it,” Rash said. “The key really is continually evolving and reinvesting. You don’t necessarily have to invest in physically things. Hire more bands. Do more karaoke. Do a different promotional night. You can reinvest with your time, too.”

Rash agreed with Gengler when he said that “there is a high probability that it will be called the White Horse,” although that still isn’t a done deal.

“I think calling it The White Horse is a good idea, but I’d like to tweak it to the extent that people know this is not your mom and dad’s White Horse,” Rash said. “This is a new place. This is different.

“Now, whether you do that with changing the exterior look or something else … we will have to wait and see.”

-- Jim Beseda / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(503) 829-2301

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