Fehn's 1891 House restaurant to close its doors for good

Fehn's 1891 House restaurant to close its doors for good

October 23rd, 2014 by Alex Green in Business Around the Region

Don and Colleen Fehn opened Fehn's 10 years ago with the intention to work for a decade and retire.

Don and Colleen Fehn opened Fehn's 10 years...

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

The owners of Fehn's 1891 House restaurant in Dayton, Tenn., say there's nothing mysterious about the restaurant's closing for good this weekend, which will put a bookend on almost 90 years of Fehn's restaurants.

"We had a 10-year plan, and we've been here 11 [years], or we bought the house 11 years ago," said Colleen Fehn, who co-owns and operates the restaurant alongside her husband, Don.

Simply: "We are retiring," she added Wednesday.

On Monday, a post appeared on the Fehn's Facebook page announcing that Saturday will be the restaurant's last day of operation. The post caused a flurry of reaction among Fehn's customers, some reacting through social media and some calling the restaurant.

"Good memories of the fried chicken and macaroon pie I enjoyed for many years," Jeana Lynch Schneitman, a former Chattanoogan who now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, posted in response to the announcement. "Boy, yet another sad happening for Chattanooga/Dayton."

Fehn's has been around since 1930, when the original restaurant was opened in Chattanooga by Don Fehn's grandparents. Fehn's became a downtown haunt for many years on the North Shore and enjoyed success still after a move to Highway 153 in Hixson.

Don and Colleen Fehn operated the restaurant during the last 15 years of its time in Chattanooga, and they were behind the move to Dayton a decade ago.

The original intention upon purchasing and renovating the 1891 Catholic schoolhouse was to open a bed and breakfast. But that turned into Fehn's 1891 House, a part-time restaurant -- for everyone except the Fehns, who have worked basically full-time managing it for a decade.

Considering full lives of labor prior to Fehn's -- Don in landscaping and restaurants and Colleen in nursing and restaurants -- the Fehns knew that after a decade at the Dayton location, they would be ready to lay down the ladle and do some resting and relaxing.

And here it is.

"It's very black-and-white," said Colleen. "Planned retirement."

Many folks who grew up eating at Fehn's in Chattanooga still make trips to Dayton for the famous Fehn's chicken and desserts.

But there are folks in Dayton equally sad to see the restaurant, a lonely bastion of upscale dining in the city, say farewell.

"I think Fehn's filled the need that we had," said Richard Daugherty, a Dayton native and food aficionado.

He was thankful to have the Fehns come in and save the old 1891 house that had fallen into disrepair over decades of vacancy.

"I'm glad it was saved when it was because it was on its way out," he said.

Daugherty mostly dined at Fehn's on special occasions, like many locals. On the eve of the restaurant's closing, he had kind words for its proprietors.

"I would say that they have been wonderful additions to our community, and we're sorry to see them go," he said.

The feeling's mutual, said Colleen Fehn.

Retirement is good and relaxation is good, but she said the couple will miss all the people they've befriended and served over the years.

"That's a biggie. That's the big downside," she said.

Fehn said as of now, there are plans for another restaurant to move into the 1891 house, but no details are available.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.


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