The soon-to-be owners of a new Culver’s on Executive Boulevard officially broke ground on the restaurant Wednesday morning.
Braving the rain, Tyler Rehmel, Robinson, Illinois, and Maatt Bilyeu, Terre Haute, gathered with their families for a ceremonial groundbreaking in partnership with city officials and the Knox County Chamber of Commerce.
The duo hopes to begin construction immediately and open, possibly, in the fourth quarter of this year.
“Right now, it’s just a bunch of dirt on the ground, but the community has already been so kind and reached out offering ways to get involved and help,” Bilyeu said.
“Everyone has been so welcoming.”
In March, officials with the county’s Area Plan Commission confirmed that the two families, operating under the name First City Holdings, had sought an improvement location permit for an area along Executive Boulevard — the site of the former Executive Inn just off north Sixth Street and near U.S. 41 — for the construction of a Culver’s Restaurant.
Culver’s was founded in 1984 by Craig and Lee Culvers; the first one opened in their hometown of Sauk City, Wisconsin. It’s likely best known for its popular butter burgers and frozen custard.
The Vincennes location would mark 57 in the state of Indiana, including ones in Terre Haute, which Bilyeu owns, and Evansville.
Rehmel said he and his wife, Cyndi, had been researching opportunities with the Culver’s franchise and had their sights set on a move to Wisconsin. Then the pandemic, he said Wednesday, halted their plans.
Later, he connected with Bilyeu, who was looking to open a second location in the region, and a fast friendship formed.
“We got our families together, and our values, beliefs, goals, everything just aligned up so well,” he said, “so we decided it could be a really good partnership.”
Bilyeu and his wife, Renee, and their children had had an eye on Vincennes as a possible second location for awhile; Vincennes, he said, had a similar feel to Terre Haute, and he thought Culver’s would go over well here.
“The two cities are so similar,” Bilyeu said. “Both have a solid university, solid infrastructure, and it’s a good, easy place to do business.”
And when they reached out to Mayor Joe Yochum to express interest, they were welcomed with open, enthusiastic arms.
“They embraced us from day one,” Bilyeu said. “We could tell right away that they weren’t going to make this a hard venture for us, and that was key to us moving forward.
“They were excited for us to be here.”
Bilyeu said his Terre Haute restaurant was constructed in just over 100 days. He’s hopeful for the same results here, weather permitting.
And he teased on Wednesday during the groundbreaking that local residents may see some inspiration from the old Executive Inn once the restaurant is complete.
“I can’t say much more than that,” he said with a smile. “But the Executive Inn was a landmark; I remember in high school coming to hang out here all the time. It was important to the community, so we want to honor that.
“But you’ll have to wait and see when we open those doors.”
The old Executive Inn property was taken over by Illinois-based Andrews Oil Co. owner Rick Andrews seven years ago.
He opened the Marathon Fastbreak there in December of 2014.
Andrews began demolition on the Executive Inn — a once beloved local hotel — in March of that same year after holding a month-long liquidation sale.
Andrews said at the time that it was intention to sell off some of the remaining, unused land in individual parcels.
Culver’s marks the first such development in addition to Fastbreak itself.