The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

June 9, 2006

Country Café puts Wallace on map

Music, food draw crowds to diner

WALLACE, Ind. — Not too long ago, the streets of Wallace, Ind., virtually were deserted.

The town offered little beyond shade from the slowly encroaching wilderness and a road leading to somewhere else.

Today, it’s hard to find a parking space on Thursday and Saturday nights, when the population of Wallace more than doubles with the sudden influx of Illinois and Indiana residents.

The difference is the Highway 341 Country Café.

“It’s the best-kept secret in Indiana,” said Richard Layden, 76, of Hoopeston.

In 2003, Tony Shuman, 61, and his wife, Linda, moved from Alabama to Wallace to pursue their dream of opening a restaurant with live musical entertainment.

“Leaving a career of 40 years and moving to a town of 80 was not only hard, it was downright scary,” Tony said.

Judging by the distances Highway 341’s patrons travel for an evening of food and dancing, the risk paid off.

“They are the best thing to ever happen to Wallace,” said Judy Bowman, 65, of Wallace.

“That little town would have folded up without them.”

The restaurant’s main attraction is the eight-member Highway 341 Band, which plays on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Most band members have been musicians for so long that they don’t even need to practice together.

“Probably tonight we’ll play three or four songs together that we’ve never played before,” said band pianist Tom Kukla, 64, of Danville.

To the audience, however, it seems like the group has been playing together forever.

“They put on a show,” Bowman said. “That’s what I like.”

The musicians have fun, too. Kukla believes the Highway 341 Country Café is worth the 45-minute drive from Danville.

“It’s all enjoyable,” he said.

Kukla is not alone. The food and live music draw a considerable crowd from outside Wallace.

“I sat by some people from England one time,” Layden said.

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