CLEAR LAKE | Just before 9:15 a.m. Monday morning, an excavator from McKiness Excavating of Mason City started to tear down the rear section of the Barrel Drive-In.
Besides the typical morning hustle and bustle of Casey's next door, and a few passersby witnessing its last moments, the start of demolition of the landmark restaurant — one that has served Clear Lakers and North Iowans since 1958 — was relatively quiet.
That stands in contrast, however, to the memories the drive-in generated for scores of people throughout the region. A few hours after the Globe Gazette posted on Facebook that the demolition had started, dozens of North Iowans had commented, and the post had been shared more than 200 times.
Matt Deardeuff, who now lives in Charles City, had been eating at the drive-in for more than 30 years. He said he is a lifelong friend of Seth Thackery, the restaurant's last owner.
He commended Thackery for running the Barrel for an extended period of time, and was a fan right away when he visited as a kid: from servers skating out with food to cars parked out front, to the phones at the booths inside where customers could place their order.
Deardeuff believes financial instability is what caused the landmark restaurant to close.
"I just wish that all the online support translated into actual people walking through the door for a delicious meal," he said. "All the good sentiments, and memories do not help the bottom line."
During the past several years, there had been efforts from the community to try to save the Barrel. In Aug. 2014, the entire outside of the building received a fresh coat of paint from volunteers.
Earlier that year, Thackery won $75,000 for a business makeover. Community members helped create a "Save the Barrel" website, and the resturant was busy enough that Thackery was able to keep his doors open a month later than usual in 2014.
The following year, thanks to donations and a lot of volunteer hours, the Barrel opened with new lights, a new sound system and renovated bathrooms, among other improvements.
Thackery could not be reached for comment via email Monday.
Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory said Casey's doesn't have any immediate plans to build an addition. James Pistillo, vice president and treasurer for Casey's, could not be reached for comment via email Monday morning.
The Barrel's popularity extended far and wide outside of Clear Lake's city limits, especially considering one of the volunteers who painted the building in 2014 is from Virginia.
Terance Fink, who lives in Sheffield, said he visited the Barrel frequently with his dad when he was growing up. He was a fan of its '50s atmosphere and how the restaurant allowed him to take a break from what can be a fast-paced life.
"I am just sad to see the old good stuff disappear, and all for a store that is around every corner, Casey's," Fink said. "But so be it, (it's a) fast pace life and no time for the good old days."
And like many who drove up to the drive-in or walked through its front door, both Deardeuff and Fink will miss the Barrel's signature meal.
"First and foremost, the chicken was excellent," Deardeuff said.
Barrel's barrel hauled away 2
Barrel's barrel hauled away
Barrel's barrel hauled away
Barrel Drive-In employee
Remodeled dining area
Dining area renovated
Barrel is open
Barrel Drive-In renovations
Clear Lake Drive-In
Seth Thackery at the Barrel
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Contact Steve at 641-421-0527 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.