Moersch Hospitality Group has a history of giving new meanings to old things.
In 1997, the Moersch family moved a 1910s white round barn from Indiana to Oronoko Charter Township, Michigan. Now, it is the hub of Round Barn Winery.
In early August, 22 years later, Moersch Hospitality Group, which owns Round Barn, Tabor Hill and Free Run Cellars, opened its fifth Michiana business, Round Barn Filling Station, just outside of Coloma.
The new dining location is housed within a former Texaco filling station that later became Jollay Market, a destination where customers could once fill up on cider, donuts and tacos.
The Filling Station’s name is an homage to its space’s former inhabitants.
“You can fill up your wine rack where you used to be able to fill up your car,” says Matt Moersch, CEO of the family-run hospitality group. “Then, there’s a light menu.”
Those getting off I-94 at the exit 39 ramp may, at first glance, think the Filling Station is still a place to tune up a vehicle. The building still resembles an auto shop — garage doors and all.
But, with a closer look, passersby will then see new picnic tables serving as outdoor seating and a Round Barn logo where a gas station logo would be.
Inside the station are table and bar seating, warm red walls and a deli-style food station.
Customers can purchase alcoholic slushies, wine, spirits, hot dogs, bratwurst and Tex-Mex food from the counter.
“I was calling it ‘gourmet gas station food,’ but somebody said that doesn’t sound appealing,” Matt says with a laugh.
The Filling Station is meant to continue a company tradition of diversity.
Matt claims that his company was one of the first in the nation to serve its own spirits, wine and beer at a physical location. The Filling Station will do so as well.
The site is also meant to continue a theme of new destinations from familiar locations, like barns, breweries and gas stations.
Finally, Matt says the Filling Station will help diversify the people it serves. Coloma is near the northern edge of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail – South, and it was distanced from most other winery locations on that trail.
“It’s just trying to get some guests at the northern part of the wine trail coming out of Kalamazoo,” Matt says. “A lot of our customers come from South Bend, down south. We’re trying to get some of the locals up here that have been big supporters.”
He said the Filling Station has the added benefit of offering food, drink and entertainment options for all people, not just wine enthusiasts.
Just outside the restaurant’s parking lot is a small gathering of dinosaur statues created by Coloma High School students. The group is a relic of the property’s former inhabitants.
“You would be shocked at how many people come and get off the highway to take pictures with those dinosaurs,” Matt says.
Live bands will occasionally play near the dinosaurs on some evenings.
Despite Moersch Hospitality Group’s goal to remain diverse in its offerings, Sue Veldman, director of marketing, said its commitment to quality customer service will remain constant.
“I think we’re really good at capturing a culture of inclusiveness,” she says. “We create a family, you know? When people come to Round Barn or Tabor Hill or another property, they feel like they belong.”
Becca Elkins will be at the forefront of Filling Station customer care as the store operations manager.
She said that in her six years with the company, it is one of the few roles she has never had. She says she is glad to add another notch in her belt, as the role creates “one happy package” of her skills.
“For me, this was the next natural progression,” she says. “I have 15 years of culinary experience, plus I have my six years of retail experience at Round Barn. So, it was a way for me to merge both.”
Becca’s career with Moersch Hospitality Group began at the ground level.
“I got started with the company by chance,” she says. “I saw that they needed help in the vineyard in 2013. I had a garden at home. This was a much larger scale of garden, so I thought, ‘Why not try it?’”
Becca went from working in the vineyard — where she said her “heart and soul” are — to also bottling, producing, creating products, selling products, planning events and planning festivals.
Her experiences at Round Barn and in the culinary field will are being applied to her new position, she says.
Her experience also gives her insight into the to-go food and beverages to purchase.
For wines, she recommends Edel Doux, Round Barn’s sweetest white wine.
Out of all the alcoholic slushy flavors, Becca recommends the mango wine slushy and the strawberry daquiri spirit slushy.
To capture the nostalgia of Jollay Market’s infamous tacos, Becca suggests trying the burritos, which are made on a panini press.
“I want them to come and get their fill here at the Filling Station,” she says. χ
Round Barn Filling Station is located at 3401 Friday Road in Coloma Charter Township. It is open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.