For more than 20 years, Leroy and Janice White ran a bar, restaurant, community center and even a beauty salon.
The Whites have been together for far longer — 51 years this May.
They were the owners of the Treloar Tavern, located across the street from the now-closed Treloar grain elevator and the Katy Trail.
The business, now under a different name and different ownership, is still open today.
The Whites grew up about a mile apart — Leroy being from Treloar and Janice from Holstein.
“We went to school together,” Janice said. “And he wanted to date me. While I liked him as a person, I sure didn’t want to date him.”
The two eventually did go on a date, as a condition of a double-date with friends. They’ve been together ever since.
After getting married, Leroy first worked at the Treloar elevator.
The couple lived in an upstairs apartment nearby with no running water or bathroom.
“We carried the water upstairs and down,” Leroy said.
After having their third child, Leroy got a job at a Chevrolet plant. The couple relocated to Florissant in 1967 to be closer to his workplace.
“I was working 11-hour days,” Leroy said.
The factory job, and the relocation, lasted about nine years.
Following a layoff, Leroy worked as a roofer and as an over-the-road truck driver.
The jobs required him to spend time away from his family, however, something he didn’t enjoy.
So a few years after Leroy’s parents sold the Treloar Tavern, he and Janice bought it back, in the mid-1970s.
Leroy White said his parents owned the tavern until 1970. It wasn’t until 1976 that he and Janice decided they wanted into the business though.
They approached the owner about buying it, but she wasn’t interested in selling.
The Whites decided instead to build a new tavern outside Treloar. Once word of their plans got out, the owner of the tavern decided to sell.
Just like with raising their children, the Whites preferred to run the tavern together.
“We work better together than apart,” Leroy said.
“Even if sometimes we can’t stand each other,” Janice quipped.
The tavern was, in many ways, a center for the Treloar community.
Although the Whites initially started opening at around 9 or 10 in the morning, they eventually changed it to 7 a.m., early enough for farmers in the area to get a cup of coffee.
Janice said they charged 10 cents a cup, but had one regular who wouldn’t even pay that much.
“He was so tight on his money, he would come in, slap down a nickel on the bar and ask for only half a cup,” she said.
Preachers from the Holstein, Marthasville, New Haven, St. Charles and Washington United Churches of Christ would meet at the tavern at least once a month on Tuesday mornings.
The Warren County nurse would come by at least once a month to do checkups on older men in the area.
“It was a community place,” Janice said.
The Whites said they experienced some scares and uncertainties during their time in the bar business.
Back in the 1980s, there was a concern that the construction of a new Highway 94 would take business away from the tavern.
Business from the Katy Trail also was a question mark in its early years.
“A lot of people would come in and just want to fill up their water bottles and use the bathroom,” Janice said.
Over time, those traveling the trail also stopped in to eat, enjoy the food and spread the word.
The Whites, at least one of them, were always at the tavern, which was probably a good thing, as they served as an impromptu babysitter for area children whose parents would sometimes drop them off at the tavern and then go off to Washington for a night.
“The only problem is we’d have to stay open until the parents came back, sometimes three in the morning or so. The kids would be in the billiard room sleeping on a bench,” Janice White said.
Leroy said the tavern used to double as a bus stop, and children would come inside until their parents could pick them up after school.
People often would call the tavern — not the fire station — to report emergencies.
“That’s the kind of place (the tavern) was,” Leroy said, noting that he served as deputy fire chief for 13 years and also would sometimes drive people to the Washington hospital.
“Folks at the ER would joke when they saw me pulling up. ‘Here comes that Treloar ambulance again,’ they’d say.”
Janice said the tavern was popular among area teenagers as well.
While they’d often order a lot of sodas in a large group, they were always honest about how many they’d had when it came time to settle up the bill, she said.
It wasn’t uncommon for Janice to serve drinks, prepare food and even cut hair for the same family in a single visit to the tavern.
She said she had a small beauty salon upstairs, above the tavern.
“We enjoyed our life at the tavern,” Leroy said.
Janice said she did a lot of the hands-on work, while Leroy served as the public relations guy.
In the PR role, Leroy went the extra mile, including dressing up each year as Santa Claus for area children.
“He knew all the kids’ names, their parents, their grandparents and where they lived,” Janice said. “They were all convinced he was the real Santa.”
The Whites said businesses today seem to have lost that personal touch — where owners are in the business and involved on a day-to-day basis.
They said they still go to the tavern to play washers, something that started between the Treloar Tavern and one in Rhineland.
The taverns teamed up with Calvin Distributing to start a league, which still exists today.
The Treloar Tavern also used to host a horseshoe league.
In 1999, after owning the Treloar Tavern for 23 years, the Whites sold it after Janice had a health scare.
Doctors told her that even with surgery she likely wouldn’t live longer than six months.
“I knew he couldn’t run the place without me,” Janice said.
Now that they’re retired, the Whites spend their time with their family as much as possible.
Janice said they’ve been blessed that their children and most of their grandchildren — seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with a fifth on the way — live in the area.
The couple are members of Immanuels United Church of Christ, Holstein, and the Riverview Boat Club, of which Leroy was a founding member.