Main Street Stories: Doc. Pierce's Restaurant

Jena Stopczynski / ABC57

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- Doc. Pierce's story is not only one of intrigue, but of generations.Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce by Doc. Pierce's Restaurant

As much as the name would suggest, there are no medical supplies or doctors to be found there except for old prescription bottles used as mantle decorations.

The namesake of the restaurant, Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce, has a backstory that dates well beyond the restaurant's opening in 1976.

Pierce was a traveling medicine man in the 1800's. Witnessing the stressors of motherhood and keeping a household, he made it his mission to find a "cure-all" for women he encountered.

The "Golden Discovery" was born.

"His philosophy was the house runs better if women are happy," shared Debi Tassell-Weber. "So, he created a line of products to cure weak women, so they were strong…he meant well."

The products he created were quite strong themselves, containing alcohol and cocaine. A "medley of herbs" and an extract of what was once used in strains of liquid opium.

Pierce believed that the solution to happiness was a strong drink enjoyed around a table with hearty food, laughter and conversation with friends and family.

Advertising for the Golden Discovery covered the sides of barns and buildings around the country. Some of which still exist today.

So how did a restaurant in downtown Mishawaka inherit his name?

Tassell-Weber's parents were moving their business from across the street into the current Doc.'s building, when the building next door burned down, revealing the famed mural.

The Dr. Pierce Golden Discovery mural on the side of the building is an original.

"A local artist did some research and came to my family and said I have a vision."

Artist Koy Jankowski's vision was the restaurant you see today, containing collected treasures for decorations on its walls.

The menu items are named to match a medical theme, keeping with its namesake.

Tiffany-style lamps hang over tables and wooden booths. Lamps that they sold to customers over generations.

"One family bought five Tiffany lamps at once for each child for Christmas and their families."

The various stained-glass windows were collected from old churches and estate sales, and the window above the bar even came from a funeral home.The original Doc. Pierce's mural, taken in 1976. by Doc. Pierce's Restaurant

A stop to Doc's isn’t complete without checking out the mural splayed on the entire side wall of the building, reading:

Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery for the Blood, Liver & Lungs.

Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription

The bottom needed to be covered, as the saying "Cures Weak Women" might not attract too many patrons.

But the original mural ad has been preserved and restored. Not to mention, a staple of Downtown Mishawaka's façade.

If you've seen the movie Son in Law and have a keen eye, you might have noticed one of the original ads on a barn toward the beginning of the movie!

General Manager Dawn Krugh says they are sent photos of ads found around the country often.

"People send them to us from all over. They'll get a picture when they're driving by, or they'll find a postcard. People send everything."

Doc. Pierce's has not only collected stories, postcards and treasures, but generations of families. Visitors, and workers alike.

"Our customers are always the most important thing in the building, and we make sure we work as a team so that that happens," shared Tassell-Weber. "We have a lot of people that met here for their first dates and now they come back for their anniversaries."

Not so surprising, I asked what their most popular menu item was, and the overwhelming answer was the ambrosia chicken- also my favorite!

Krugh has worked 29 of Doc.'s 48 years they've been in existence.

"I think we've tried to do our best to keep things the same. That's what keeps people coming back because we don't change the menu up every six months or whatever. They know they can come here and get what they had when they first came here. Consistency."

Tassell-Weber's parents started the restaurant, so it has been a very large part of her life.

"We've had a lot of fun here. It was really fun having the whole family working together. My mom was bookkeeper and my dad ran it," she shared.

"We've just had families work here. Decades of families. Generations of families even…We have people that work now that their kids start working here. You know, it's just a really close-knit family feeling here and I think the customers feel that. We all genuinely love each other."

"It's one big happy family," added Krugh.

Seemingly, Dr. Pierce's mission is complete.

Learn more about Doc. Pierce's Restaurant.

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