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Blondie's Tavern turns 25

December 18, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

ROUZERVILLE, Pa. - Bob and Ann Backer bought their pub during an economic downturn, survived another and are now celebrating the business's 25th anniversary during a third.

While they subsidized Blondie's with an outside income in the past, they feel they've diversified the family business enough to carry it through the recession on its own. In fact, Bob Backer calls it his retirement plan and looks forward to the day he can pass it on to another generation.

"They said we're getting old and they want to take over," Ann Backer said with a laugh.

The Backers' three children and nine grandchildren have all helped at Blondie's over the years. The one-time bar has been expanded into a restaurant, catering business and rental facility for special events.

Blondie's, named for a movie series based on the cartoon, has sponsored volleyball, softball and bowling teams. It has hosted dart leagues, birthday parties, pool tournaments, weddings and horseshoes.

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The bar opened Dec. 29, 1983, on the corner of Old Route 16 and Pen Mar Road. Since then, the building has gained a front porch, a new front bar and renovated dining room, an expanded kitchen, a catering preparation area and the upstairs "Rouzerdome" with retractable roof.

In 2004, the Backers joined with another Rouzerville businessman to form an organization to support existing businesses and welcome new ones. The Rouzerville Business Association was born as the development of a nearby Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar loomed.

"A lot of businesspeople were afraid of other businesses coming in and we enlightened them," Ann Backer said, explaining that she's happy to take Applebee's overflow and after-hours crowds.

Bob Backer likened his move from New York to the land rush of the late 1800s.

"We staked our claim in Pennsylvania, Franklin County, in Washington Township, in a little town called Rouzerville," he said, talking about the location between Pa. 16 and Old Route 16.

The Backers, who once served pork barbecue to President Bill Clinton, said they want to run a business where everyone feels safe and welcome.

"We all need a place to go," Ann Backer said.

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