By Brian Halvorsen
Do you believe in second chances? Jeremy Horton does, as he gears up to re-open the Cowbell Homestyle Café within the next week. The restaurant had been a staple of the Rockaway Beach community for 23 years before its abrupt closure last year.
The former owner Patrick Creech and his sister-in-law Cleta opened the Cowbell(e) Cafe in 1996 as a place that catered to local clientele. Now Horton, who purchased the business from Creech this year, wants to keep that mission going.
In 2018, the Cowbell was forced to close when the Internal Revenue Service placed liens on Creech’s property due to his unpaid personal tax liability. According to Horton, Creech tried to work out payments to keep his business, but the IRS told him he was too late.
The Cowbell sold at auction, but Creech assigned retention rights to Horton, which allowed him to redeem it within six months at a 20% price increase.
After an initial investor fell through, Horton was able to secure a loan and purchased the business. Horton says part of the money was secured through an angel investor who would like to remain anonymous. Even with the money, Horton needed the help of the Tillamook based law firm, Albright Kittell PC.
“Without the knowledge of Mr. [Michael] Kittell, we would have lost it for sure,” Horton said.
On the last day of the six month period Horton had to assert his retention rights, the payment was made to the IRS and the business was secured. The wire transfer from the loan company came in 15 seconds before the close of their business. The payment to the IRS was made with just minutes to spare in their workday.
Work on the building — which was necessary due to the time it had sat empty and damage done between the transfer of the property to Horton — began almost immediately.
Horton is no stranger to the restaurant industry. He previously owned an establishment in Ormond Beach, Florida and managed two large restaurants in Daytona Beach.
In 2015, Horton moved to Rockaway Beach to manager the Sea Treasures Inn after visiting the town the year prior. He looked around and noticed that most of the businesses focused solely on tourists. He visited the Cowbell where he was surprised to see how Patrick Creech was doing something different.
“Pat has always been a pillar of the community,” Horton said, “On any given day you could go in and find Pat whistling and happily talking to guests and being his cheerful self no matter what was happening.”
Horton says he has not been intimidated by the process. In fact, it lit a fire underneath him.
“The Cowbell and the fight to bring it back has breathed life back into me and gave me a real purpose,” according to Horton, “The residents of Rockaway have been absolutely amazing and helpful as well. I wouldn’t even be able to name them all but they know who they are.”
While the decor and the name might change slightly (tweaked from the Cow Belle Cafe to simply the Cowbell), not much about the business’ personality will change. It still intends to target locals, offering them a home away from home for breakfast or lunch, hours will be 8 am to 2 pm. Even Creech is returning — this time as an employee.
More information about the Cowbell, including the opening date (soon!) when its announced, can be found on their website at www.cowbellrockaway.com and their Facebook page. The Cowbell is located at 194 Highway 101 S, Rockaway Beach.