KNIGHTSTOWN — The corner of East Main Street and Washington Street has been home to a bakery since 1960 and the building housing it has been around since the 1800s. Over the decades, more people have left Knightstown than have arrived there, a familiar story to many Indiana small towns. But two guys in their 20s are bucking that trend, and they are now baking and deep-frying their way through the pandemic. They say it’s because their donuts and fritters are about family.
“A family friend of ours renovated (the restaurant). His dad used to own this building, and it’s very important to us to keep this restaurant alive,” said Keith Owen one of the owner-operators of Ye Olde Corner Bakery.
Keith and his older brother, Jared, took over the restaurant from their sister, Lauren, this year. “It was important to keep this in our family with our parents and our sister working so hard to keep it alive, my brother and I want to be part of that, too.”
WRTV first visited Lauren Owen at the bakery in April 2020, as Knightstown was exploring a loan program to help keep Ye Olde Corner Bakery and other small businesses alive — even as they were forced to close during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. But in December, Lauren announced on the bakery’s Facebook page that she was stepping away for health reasons. It may have caused some to worry about a hole in the donut offerings that were nearby or, worse, that someone else with questionable baking skills could be moving in.
“This business has changed hands a lot over the last five years,” Keith Owen says. “There’s been inconsistency before us. But Jared and I… our main concern is being here every day and putting out a consistent product. There’s so much instability right now, we don’t want to be part of that.”
When they re-opened the bakery in January, Jared came in with some knowledge of running a restaurant, armed with a hospitality degree from IUPUI. But younger brother Keith just graduated from Wabash College last year as a religion major, not the usual home for training in the proper cream-to-pastry ratio for a proper Long John. Less than two months into their ownership, Keith said he believes Ye Olde is filling new souls — and their stomachs — simply by keeping the morning communion of donuts and coffee close to their Henry County neighbors.
“I have a lot of stability in the people who come in day after day, week after week," he said. "Not only do we have great conversations and meals, but it’s also just nice to feel comfortable in a new place.”
In addition to donuts and house-made bread, one of their specialties is English Muffin bread, Ye Olde Corner Bakery also serves hot breakfast plates like eggs and bacon, omelets, and biscuits and gravy, hoping that people will slow down and enjoy their time with friends and family rather than grab and go.
Keith also says you’re supporting multiple locally owned businesses when you dine with them, as they source their ingredients from local farms and other providers. “Our whole goal is to offer Hoosier hospitality and be kind to people,” Owen said.
The pandemic is about to enter its second year, and it’s already forced countless restaurants across the country out of business. But Keith seems confident that their Knightstown neighbors — and those who may drive in from Hancock or Rush County, or dropping by if they’re in town for a visit to the famous Hoosier Gym — will help them keep going and keep their family’s dream alive.
“That shows us that this is a place that we need to be and that we can be," Keith said. "This is a system that we’ll be able to thrive in, especially once warmer weather comes and the pandemic subsides and we get to have events and go outside, meet new people, and become a thread in the fabric of this community.”
Ye Olde Corner Bakery is looking for kitchen help right now. Keith says you can apply at the restaurant, 201 East Main Street in Knightstown. The bakery is open every Wednesday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m. until Noon and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.