End of an era

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Lutz’s Steak House to close New Year’s Eve after 31 years of business

By Mark Robinson

Days may be numbered for Lutz’s Steak House, but the fond memories will live on forever for the owner and her loyal customers.

Lutz’s is slated to shut its doors at closing time Dec. 31 after more than three decades on the western edge of Noblesville at 3100 Westfield Rd. (Ind. 32). Nancy Lutz, 72, said her mid-November announcement has spurred interest from potential buyers, but no solid offers have yet been put on the table. Regardless, she said, “I am retiring New Year’s Eve.”

Since the announcement, Lutz has been overwhelmed by the community response. “It’s just been incredible,” she said, “the outpouring of support and concern and ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do without this place?’”

Lutz, staff members and customers have been reminiscing about the journey that began when Nancy and husband Dave purchased Calloway’s Steak House in 1983, in what was then very rural Noblesville. They renamed it Lutz’s the following year and it has been a mainstay adjacent to Pebble Brook Golf Club ever since.

Nancy said the establishment’s ability to remain independent and not be forced into a franchised, cookie-cutter restaurant has set it apart all these years.

“We have tried to align ourselves with the supper club atmosphere,” she said. “Our music three nights a week, you can’t get better music in Indiana than you can here. We have a dance floor; it’s a unique situation. It would be wonderful to have that go on (with a new owner). I think people are beginning to appreciate that era and that retro kind of feel a little more than they did before.”

Longtime patron Howard Kenley agreed. Lutz called Kenley, who lives nearby, “the customer that I think we inherited when we bought the restaurant.”

“We’d go at least two times a week,” said Kenley, a Noblesville resident since 1940 when he and his father opened the first Kenley’s Supermarket in town. “We’d like to go on Friday night because they always had good music. On Friday nights when the place was full, Nancy was busy working whatever she did and Dave kind of wandered around visiting with his customers.”

Through the years, Kenley’s family held birthday and anniversary parties at Lutz’s, even a reunion of his Air Force buddies from World War II. One of his favorite memories took place just this year, though. Kenley’s 95th birthday fell on a Monday when the restaurant is normally closed, but Nancy didn’t hesitate when Kenley’s daughter Pam Cammack asked about Lutz’s hosting the milestone event.

“When Pam approached Nancy about the party, she was very pleased to serve us,” Kenley said. “One of the waitresses, Leslie, came in to help out and a couple people in the kitchen and Nancy were there. It was really a nice occasion.”

Pete Smith is another longtime customer and friend who will miss the Lutz’s atmosphere. Smith moved to Noblesville from North Manchester, Ind., in 1991 to become head coach of the high school boys’ basketball team. He patronized Lutz’s early on and has been a big fan since.

“To me, it was ‘the place’ to go out for a big-time dinner,” Smith said. “Lutz’s was a hoppin’ place, too, with entertainment three nights a week. We didn’t have that in the towns I had lived in back then.

For Smith, it helped that he found a mutual sports fan in Dave Lutz, who could often be found sitting at the end of the bar striking up conversation with patrons.

“Dave was such a sports nut,” Smith said. “I would come in to the restaurant and I loved his ‘take’ on the sporting scene, although sometimes he was wrong and we’d argue lightly about it! He would tell me what was wrong with my team as well.”

“We became good friends and his son Mark was a student at NHS then and even became one of our statisticians for my basketball team. Dave and Nancy would feed my Miller basketball teams when I needed it.”

That tradition continues for Smith, now the boys’ head coach at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville. The Golden Eagles play in the Noblesville holiday tournament Dec. 29 and 30, so as he did a year ago, Smith plans to take the team to Lutz’s after its first game. “It makes me sad thinking that will be the final time to do that,” he admitted.

Nancy said it became more difficult to run the restaurant after Dave died in 2009, but a loyal and dedicated staff – some working there as long as 30 years – helped her keep going. She’d been contemplating retirement for about three years and, faced with growing competition, the need for upgrades to the building, menu and in social media outreach, decided now was the time.

“It’s really nice to be able to call my own shot,” she said. “It’s nice I’m not being forced into any decision.”

Still, it hasn’t been easy as the memories keep flooding in.

“I am happy one minute and I cry the next,” she said. “You can imagine.”


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