In 1972, Joe Werner was living with his parents in North East Philadelphia, while working his way through college as a bartender. As every bartender does, Joe dreamed of owning a bar of his own. He looked into some places for sale near his home town, but quickly discovered they were priced out of reach for a young bartender saddled with the expense of college tuition. Fortunately, friend and fellow bartender, Earl Foster, heard there was a place for sale. It was a “place way out in the country”. In the early 1970’s, the area was indeed the country, particularly for two city guys. The bar, called Tony’s Mug at the time, was a run-down rugged working man’s bar that sat just 12 people. It had a small pool table (where our current lobby is), a small kitchen, and a single bedroom apartment in the back. Joe’s family jokingly said the place looked more like a “chicken coup” than a bar. It was a risk, but if Joe and Earl pooled their resources, they just might be able to afford it together. Joe would have to borrow most of the money from his father, but they decided to take the plunge. On opening day, they took in just $85 in sales, but they were ecstatic. It was a beginning, and they were living their dream.
In the early years, Joe and Earl took turns alternating day and night bartending shifts. Almost all the money they made was being put into renovations. By the mid 1970’s, business wasn’t progressing fast enough to support two people. They would need to expand further, and that would cost more money. By that time, Joe had married Kathy, and they were starting a family. Earl had a family to support as well, but he was older, and wasn’t in the position to take on any more risk. He decided he wanted out of the partnership, so Joe bought his share. That freed up some capital to keep growing. As time went on, the pool room became a small dining room, and Joe began to experiment with expanding the menu beyond a simple bar menu. A New York strip was added on Friday and Saturday nights, and Joe learned to make his own homemade soups.
Renovations continued in stages. The original bar was replaced early on with the current oak bar, made by Joe’s brother, Bud. Bud, a Philadelphia fireman, built the bar in his garage on his days off. It was brought in and assembled piece by piece. Additionally, the apartment behind the building was partially converted into the back dining room, and not long after, the sun room was added.
During that time period, more food was added to the menu, and Joe would enlist the help of Kathy, to help manage all the new staff that was being hired to support the growing business. It was becoming clear that Joe had turned that little “chicken coup” of a bar into a popular full-service restaurant. The name Tony’s Mug no longer seemed appropriate and was finally changed to Country Place.
Fifty years later, Joe continues to work 7 days a week, but these days, it’s with the help of his son, and right hand man, Joe Jr. The father and son duo, along with a fantastic support staff of dedicated employees, work hard to keep providing the same great food and great prices that people have come to expect from Country Place.
Thank you to all our loyal customers then and now. Without you, we wouldn’t be here today.