A staple in the Washington Community, Cowan’s Restaurant, changed hands this week.

Tom and Rachel Gildehaus sold the building and business at 114 Elm St. to Karen and Rick Marquart and Peggy Marquart, all of Washington. The deal was inked Monday.

The husband and wife team, Karen and Rick Marquart, also own Marquart’s Landing on Front Street in Downtown Washington. Peggy Marquart is Rick Marquart’s sister.

In partnership with others, the Marquarts are the owners of Otis Campbell’s, the Stafford Bluffs apartments, both in Washington, and Penn Station sandwich shop in Columbia.

Karen Marquart said the transition in ownership should be seamless for staff and customers at Cowan’s Restaurant.

“It will be business as usual,” she said, adding that Tom Gildehaus will help with operations until the new owners feel comfortable with everything.

“We are excited about the fact that we get to keep Cowan’s local,” she said. “We want to keep it in the spirit of Downtown, which is so important to (us). We decided this would be a great adventure for the Marquarts.”

Rick and Karen Marquart have one daughter, Allie Marquart. Peggy Marquart has four children, Christopher Marquart, Jordan Marquart, Matt Marquart and Heather Sugg.


In some form, the building that houses Cowan’s Restaurant has been a part of the Downtown Washington landscape almost since the city’s inception.

The building was built in the 1860s by the Kahmann family. Henry J. Dickbrader operated a hardware store in the location from 1869 to 1920.

The Kahmann family continued erecting buildings southward along Elm Street and it was eventually known as Kahmann’s Block.

Dickbrader was the mayor of Washington from 1893 to 1898.

According to the Washington Historical Society, the building also was used as Olympia’s Candy Kitchen, but little else is known about the kitchen.

In 1930, Pete and Clara Mealer opened Mealer’s Cafe, which specialized in home-style cooking. The cafe was sold to Ida Mae Schultz in 1972.

It was briefly called Elm Street Cafe. In 1973, John and Georgia Cowan purchased the restaurant and changed the name to Cowan’s Restaurant.

Just five years later, the restaurant was sold to Oma and Jerry Gildehaus, who kept the name and expanded the business.

The restaurant underwent major changes in 1979. Walls were removed between buildings and another room was added for seating. The kitchen was enlarged and public restrooms were added for the first time.

In 1982, another building adjoining the restaurant was remodeled and access through the existing part was made available. This doubled the seating capacity.

In 1984, Granny’s Attic was opened, again an opening from another building was used for entry. The gift shop had a country flair with handmade crafts from the townspeople and souvenirs from Washington.

Another smaller room was added in 1987 and major kitchen renovations were completed in 1988.

In late 2006, Jerry became ill and unable to work. Oma continued the restaurant, along with Tom and Rachel Gildehaus, until Oma passed away in 2009.

Tom and Rachel then purchased the restaurant.

The two remodeled the upstairs of the restaurant as their home in 2010 and plan to stay there for the time being.