PLYMOUTH -- The Listenberger family, which has fed Plymouth for decades with cafes, hotel restaurants, Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, food trucks and a catering service, now reaches across the country with government contracts to make sure soldiers train on a full stomach.
Siblings Mary Beth and Robert Listenberger, who grew up in the business started by their parents, Bob and Rosemary Listenberger, have kept the tradition cooking and recently partnered with former employee Lance Lamphier with an eye to the future.
"We're very layered in our restaurant history in our family," Mary Beth says. "We really had the opportunity from our parents. We grew up working in the restaurants, which is much like working in a farming operation -- sunup to sundown and a lot of hard work in the meantime."
Bob Listenberger opened Bob's Cafeteria in downtown Plymouth in 1955 and operated Listenberger's Holiday Inn Restaurant when the new motel came to town 10 years later. He later changed the name to Balloon Wurks in honor of his hot air ballooning hobby.
Expanding the menu, the family started buying Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises -- Mary Beth bought her first at age 25, Robert became a partner later. When Bob died in 1985 at age 52, Robert bought Balloon Wurks, which has since sold.
"We've grown from there and opened a few more KFCs and incorporated our catering company, which is called Hoosier Catering," Mary Beth says, as well as a small downtown café called Home Made To Go.
The catering business started when the Kentucky Fried Chickens started supplying the National Guard for drill weekends about a decade ago. Soldiers suggested the company bid for government contracts. Hoosier Catering has a mobile kitchen that can provide 1,500 to 3,000 meals per day.
"The military piece is just amazing. We travel all over the United States," Mary Beth says, adding that commanders give workers medals after the two- to six-week stints. "We should be thanking them for what they do for us. We'll walk away with wonderful memories and tears in our eyes."