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Chiefs Brew House

Resurrecting a dining icon

Article written by Ed Russo of The Register-Guard. Published June 19, 2016.

COBURG — Rachelle and Matt Hogan were doing just fine with their first restaurant, Chiefs Brew House. Business had increased each year since they opened the restaurant in early 2011 with a few employees. Now, lunch and dinner customers regularly fill the dining room and patio. But late last year their friends — Alan and Peggy Wells — suggested they open another restaurant in Coburg — right across the street in the historic William Van Duyn House. “We told them they were crazy,” Matt Hogan said. “And that we weren’t interested. But they were persistent.”

About a month ago, the Hogans opened the Coburg Inn Restaurant in the Van Duyn House. The 139-year-old Van Duyn House had been vacant for a couple of years and was starting to fall into disrepair. A renovated historic landmark would complement the Wellses’ new hotel, and a well-run restaurant inside would give hotel guests a convenient place to eat. The Wellses contacted the out-of-state representative of the Van Duyn House’s owner. After months of negotiations, Alan Wells, a commercial real estate broker, had secured a 20-year lease that gives him and his wife, Peggy, and Matt and Rachelle Hogan, an option to buy the property at any time during the lease. “It has been working out perfectly,” Peggy Wells said.

The Hogans first got to know the Wellses through their first restaurant. The Wellses ate at Chiefs Brew House and became “wonderful friends,” Matt Hogan said. The Coburg Inn restaurant features different food than Chiefs, a pub-style eatery that specializes in burgers and sandwiches. The Coburg Inn serves sandwiches, too, but it also offers salads, chicken dishes and daily comfort food specials in a casual dining atmosphere. The restaurant seats 50 people on the first floor of the Van Duyn House. The Hogans hope to soon open the Bronco Saloon, a western-themed bar, in the other half of the first floor.

The Hogans consider themselves “blessed” for doing so well with Chiefs. They selected the name because Matt Hogan is part Cherokee. The couple became restaurateurs five years ago out of necessity, because the recession forced them to find a new livelihood. Matt Hogan, who grew up in Coburg, was a contractor who owned a home building company for 18½ years. The recession of 2008-2010 ground their business to a halt.

“We were doing every odd job that we could take,” Rachelle Hogan said. “But we were thinking that it would take construction another 10 years to come around again, so we decided to switch gears.” In late 2010, the couple purchased the Coburg Cafe on North Willamette Street, the venerable diner that had been serving residents meals for seven decades. They changed the menu and named the business Chiefs Wild Wings, which later was changed to Chiefs Brew House.

Rachelle Hogan, who was raised on a farm outside Harrisburg, developed new dishes for their restaurant. “My mom is a great cook,” she said. “I come from a Mennonite background, and my extended family is also very much into cooking and canning. We butchered our own beef and hogs. It was a family affair.”

The Hogans also drew culinary inspiration from Matt Hogan’s years-ago experience of working in a restaurant that specialized in chicken wings while he attended a technical school in Phoenix. “I’ve always loved wings,” he said, “so Rachelle came up with some really good wings sauces.”

VanDuyn House Coburg Oregon

“We were pretty nervous about the town’s response,” to the changes, Rachelle Hogan said. “It had been the Coburg Cafe since 1947. But it was a good switch. The building really needed a lot of repairs and updating.”

As the Hogans were busy with Chiefs across the street, the Van Duyn House, built in 1877 by one of the town’s first settlers, had become empty. Matt Hogan remembered the white-and-red painted house from his childhood, in its glory days as the fine dining Coburg Inn Restaurant. The original restaurant, owned and operated for 19 years by chef Don Savoie, closed in 1987. The restaurant had such a stellar reputation that people still stop and ask about it, he said. After the restaurant closed, the Van Duyn House was used for 14 years as an antique store. Different restaurants occupied the first floor until the last one closed a few years ago, Matt Hogan said. A tree branch had fallen through the roof on the building’s south side, creating a hole that was covered by plywood and plastic. Once the Hogans' lawyer and commercial real estate broker had reached a lease-purchase agreement, Matt Hogan started working on the two-story, 2,700-square-foot house in March. He said the house was dilapidated and virtually bare. The toilets and sinks remained, but everything else that could be removed, including the carpet, was gone. The interior had not been painted for 29 years, Hogan said.

He spent about two months renovating the interior, including new flooring, fixtures and restaurant equipment. He also painted the first floor of the building’s exterior white with red trim, and painted the wide covered porch red.

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