The Emporia Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce that Olpe Chicken House has been named the 2021 Business of the Year.

Leonard and Theresa Coble bought the restaurant on May 1, 1958. At that time, a complete chicken dinner cost 65 cents, and the restaurant had a seating capacity of just 32. On October 5, 1974, the building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, a total loss. A new building at the same location was completed on June 16, 1975, with a vastly increased seating capacity for 320. In 1994, Larry and Charlotte Coble became owners in the business, taking on the responsibility of managing the restaurant.

“The Chicken House has been recognized as one of America’s premier Chicken Restaurants by notable publications from USA Today to American Airlines magazine American Way. Locally, our customers have honored us by naming us their favorite chicken restaurant for 17 consecutive years in Best of the Flint Hills,” said Larry Coble. “It takes hard work, long hours, and dedicated employees and family to make the restaurant what it is today, including the extra steps taken to put the homemade touch to our menu.”

Out of many problems over the years, the greatest challenge for Olpe Chicken House owners has been brought on by Covid-19. Working out all the kinks of curbside and carryout service without a drive-through; having to cut seating capacity; staffing; and product costs and supply chain issues have all proved challenging for the Cobles. “Our customers were very understanding. They understand every business is struggling and we can only do the best we can, and take it one day at a time,” Larry Coble noted.

“We have many customers that come in routinely to eat at our restaurant. I get this rewarding feeling when I walk into the dining room and see our customers sharing a table and I know practically everyone in the room,” Coble concluded.

Both Cobles were born and raised as members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Olpe. Larry is a longtime Knights of Columbus member in Olpe, and Charlotte, as a longtime member of the St. Anne’s Altar Society, has cared for the altar linens for 29 years. Larry and Charlotte also own Howie’s Tire Shop at 3 W. Hwy 99 in Olpe.

Each year the Chamber requests all Chamber members submit Business of the Year nominations. Nominated businesses are then asked to supply a brief history of their business and how it has evolved; their business philosophy and reasons for success; and a listing of the various organizations in which they are active.

The past three years’ Business of the Year honorees review the nominees and decide upon the winner. We congratulate all the businesses who were nominated for the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Business of the Year award.

The formal recognition of the 2021 Business of the Year recipient, Olpe Chicken House, will be at the Emporia Area Chamber’s 124th Annual Meeting on May 7. Awards will also be given for the Chamber Volunteer of the Year, Community Impact Award and Lifetime Achievement.