For the first time in three years, the building near the corner of Seneca Trail and Denmar Road in Hillsboro, is once again abuzz with customers.
It has served as a gathering place for decades – beginning as Moore’s Store, then as a restaurant under the names of Four Winds, Rosewood Café, Country Roads and Pretty Penny Café.
Now, owned by Terrell McSweeny and managed by Blair Campbell, it is known as the Hillsboro Public House and has many favorite staples from the past, as well as new dishes on the menu.
McSweeny bought the building from Campbell in late 2020 with the plan to refurbish the building and reopen it as a restaurant.
The building has been special to McSweeny’s family for a long time and she knew she wanted to honor the memories of her late husband, Ralph “R. W.” Burns, and in-laws, Dick and Ruby Burns, by bringing life back to the historic structure.
“[They] always loved this place,” she said. “When my in-laws were growing up here in Hillsboro, it was Moore’s Store, and they remembered coming to the general store and shopping here. In the 80s, it was converted into a restaurant and I remember coming here when I first moved to the area in the 90s.
“When my husband passed away in September of 2020, I was thinking about the fact that he always wanted to fix up this building and open a restaurant in it,” she continued.
“I think it would be a really nice legacy for him. He would love this; Dick and Ruby, too.”
It took two years, off and on, to get the building ready and on June 16 the Hillsboro Public House was filled with customers for its official Open House.
Fans of the former restaurants returned to sink their teeth into the new menu, as well as see the updated restaurant which has kept its classic general store feel with updated equipment in the kitchen and drinks area.
The menu features appetizers, entrees and desserts for lunch and dinner. There is also hand dipped ice cream and a coffee bar.
“One thing I’m really, really happy about is we’re trying to feature local Hillsboro things,” McSweeny said. “The pictures on the shelves are all old family pictures from Hillsboro. We’re serving Doolittle Coffee which is roasted right here in Little Levels by Lori Doolittle. We are featuring beef from the Roes’ right down the road. Everybody that’s working here right now lives in the Hillsboro area.
“So we’re really trying to feature local Hillsboro product, produce and people,” she added, laughing.
In the future, McSweeny said the plan is to add local artwork and more locally produced items like maple syrup and honey.
Returning to the building and kitchen is Campbell, who has worked at three of the former restaurants and was also owner of the Pretty Penny Café.
“I love this building, apparently,” Campbell said, jokingly.
Campbell admits that when she sold the building to McSweeny, she thought she was done with it, but three months ago, she returned to help with the kitchen staff and menu.
“She’s really managing and helping set up all this,” McSweeny said of Campbell. “Super thrilled she put this menu together. I think it’s going to provide some really nice options for people. Very family friendly. We’re really trying to have comfort food for people that’s consistent.”
Campbell said she is paying homage to the past with several dishes that are carryovers from the former restaurants.
“The Rosewood Sticks are carryover from the Rosewood,” she said. “We brought the PJ Dip and Stinky Fries from the Pretty Penny. We have some new stuff, too. The Sunday morning burger with bacon jam and the fried egg. That’s a new burger. The cheese stuffed meatballs, that’s new.”
At the open house, Campbell split her time between the kitchen and in the dining area, getting greetings and hugs from her former patrons who were happy to see the restaurant in operation once again.
“I missed my customers,” she said. “I missed the building.”
Along with new additions to the menu, McSweeny is thrilled to have something else coming to the restaurant very soon.
“In the next couple weeks, we’ll be opening up the espresso bar,” she said. “One thing that Ralph really wanted for this space was a really good espresso machine.”
She is also in the process of applying for a liquor license, so there will be a bar serving beer and wine later, as well.
Seeing the building full of customers and hearing the buzz of conversation made Campbell and McSweeny hopeful for the future.
“I think people were ready for this,” Campbell said. “I think it’s going to go well.”
The Hillsboro Public House is open Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.