CLEAR LAKE | The stress of trying to keep a Clear Lake landmark operating is evident on Seth Thackery's face.

The 34-year-old owner of the Barrel Drive-In, Highway 18 West in Clear Lake, is facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs. It's money he doesn't have. So he's considered selling the business.

Neighboring Casey's General Stores has expressed an interest in buying the property, but a sale to Casey's would mean tearing down the drive-in.

"They just want the dirt. I hate to see that but I don't have a lot of options right now," Thackery said. "I've kind of been pushed into a corner. I can't keep borrowing money just to live every year."

Recent media coverage about a possible sale has sparked some interest in seeing that the drive-in survives. 

"I am getting a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls from concerned people who want to keep the Barrel around and see what they can do to help," Thackery said.

"I don't know what any of it entails yet so I am just trying to weigh everything right now," he said. "I am just doing the best I can to keep this thing around."

Thackery bought the business from Deb and Tom Lincoln. Tom died in 2007. 

The drive-in was started by Ed and Lois Kotz of Clear Lake in 1958. Thackery started working at the Barrel at the age of 14.

"I've run the place for 10 years or more and every year has been a battle," he said. "I just can't do it by myself anymore, which I think is kind of evident just by looking around.

"No one sees all I've put into it. The place just needs a huge face-lift. I've put everything I have and liquidated most of my assets just to keep it running. If people are interested in saving it, I'll keep fighting. I just can' t do it by myself anymore."

The list of repairs is enormous. Thackery has been working with only half an ice cream machine for quite a while. One of his chicken broasters hasn't worked in two years. The floor drains have collapsed. 

Ceiling tiles are coming apart. He's afraid to think about what will happen if the lights go out in the dining area.

"They'd all have to be replaced and they don't make ballasts for these anymore," Thackery said. "Everything is from the 1950s. That's my biggest worry. We are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it to where we can save it."

For now, he is considering applying for a place on the National Register of Historic Places or starting an internet fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. He's just not sure what to do.

"I'd love to keep the place around and just immortalize it in Clear Lake history forever. I just don't know if its possible at this point," he said.

"I am just hoping for people to give me a little feedback and offer their help. If it's knowledge, if it's money, I don't know. This is not my area of expertise. Professional help would be very welcome."


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