By Sterling McGinn
Timber Charlie’s Restaurant has been a pillar of downtown Newberry for 33 years, and now it has added a pair of new owners to its growing legacy.
Newberry residents Rob and Angie Doughty purchased the iconic business from longtime owner Ray Mahaffy in October of 2021.
“We started the process in April—Angie came home and said it was for sale,” stated Rob “I told Angie ‘Why don’t we buy it?’ We started doing the paperwork and everything started coming together. The closer we came, the more excited we got—we were actually going to own a restaurant.”
Both Rob and Angie are longtime Newberry residents, with their own connections to the restaurant. Rob was born in Columbus, Ohio and moved to Newberry when he was in the seventh grade. Angie was born and raised in Newberry, and was a waitress there for 15 years prior to the purchase.
The Doughtys do not have any major changes in store for the business, and will keep the traditional name of Timber Charlie’s.
“We did have a lot of discussions about that…’Is it going to be Timber Doughty’s’ or something,” Rob said. “Timber Charlie’s is an established name, and I like it.”
One change that customers will notice right away is the gift shop. The Doughtys downsized the store section and added tables and TVs to the room. A smaller selection of gifts is available to purchase.
“During the heavy snowmobile season, we used this as an overflow,” Rob said. “People could come in and sit, have drinks, and watch TV until their table was ready.”
That was popular with snowmobilers, Angie said. “We had a lot of positive feedback…when they came in and didn’t have to stand at the door,” Angie said. “They could come in and sit and the room was warm.”
In the summer months the old gift shop room will be available for meetings, parties, and banquets. The venue already has reservations for events in the near future, according to Rob.
The restaurant menu remains the same, though they now offer Pepsi products. The Doughtys also kept all employees on staff and currently have 40 people working for them.
The sports memorabilia on the East wall of the dining room were moved to the old gift shop area. Rob and Angie wanted to bring the rustic look back to the main dining area with historic photos and logging tools lining the paneled walls.
The walls of the old wood-frame structure could tell plenty of stories. The restaurant has decades of history, and the building itself goes back much farther.
It was constructed in 1899 for Edward Johnson as a boarding house and saloon. The building was conveniently located directly across from the passenger train depot.
It remained with the Johnsons until 1918, when the establishment was purchased by William Olsen. He changed the name of the business from the Johnson House to the Hotel Luce. Boarders were usually hired hands who worked on the Johnson farm directly across from the railroad tracks on the West side. Other boarders were loggers who came into town after staying in the lumber camps all winter.
Many lumber camps only paid their workers at the beginning of the spring break up. That was a way to keep the loggers in camp all winter. Once they received their check, they hit the town of Newberry, and usually spent their entire season’s wages before returning to camp.
In 1922, the sawmill town of Emerson had passed its heyday. Fridolph Larson moved to Newberry and purchased the Hotel Luce. Larson continued running the business as a boarding house, and until the repeal of prohibition in 1933, when liquor could be sold again.
During the Great Depression, the boarding rooms were full. That portion of the business gradually phased out in the 1940s. The last boarder left in the 1970s.
Fridolph Larson died in 1943 and the business was operated by his sons: Dude, Bill, and Gustav. Sten (pronounced “Steen”) Larson came home to run the business in 1968, which was then known as Larson’s. Many still remember the old potbellied stove in the corner, used in the winter to supplement heat from the natural gas.
Sten and his wife, Gerry, maintained the bar until the late 1980s.
Timber Charlie’s was founded in 1989 by Charlie Autterson, who purchased the business from the Larson family. Autterson ran the business as a bar, liquor store, and restaurant for many years, and he named the establishment Timber Charlie’s.
And that’s how it’s still known today.
“I have really been enjoying myself…I have never had a job that I enjoyed going to,” said Rob, who now works at the restaurant fulltime. “I wake up in the morning and it is a different story.”
Angie continues to work her regular job at the Community Action Agency and works evenings and weekends at the restaurant on the weekend.
The couple plan on having a grand reopening sometime later in the spring.