Boyd & Wurthmann


Food tends to occupy much of our thought. Samuel Johnson once said, "For a man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner."

That statement rang true for Herman and Byrl Wurthmann, co-founders of Berlin's longest running restaurant: Boyd & Wurthmann.

Many locals equate the Boyd & Wurthmann restaurant with the Berlin they once knew: a small, one-horse town. The restaurant was a gathering place for locals to hash out business deals while trying the daily special, catch up on the latest news over a cup of coffee, or just stop by for one of Byrl Wurthmann's famous pies. The locals have always used the round table in the corner for a rotating gathering spot. As one leaves another joins. There's always lots of laughter as they tell jokes in Pennsylvania Dutch. In the mornings you could build a house with the subcontractors who are there to get breakfast or a cup of coffee before heading out for the day.

Since its beginnings over sixty years ago, Boyd & Wurthmann has continued to draw crowds of both locals and visitors with the promise of not only mouth-watering pie, but also a fascinating history.

In 1945, Hummel's Market, a restaurant and grocery store combination, was put up for sale. At that time, the Wurthmanns and Byrl's brother Dale Boyd were both living in the Canton area. Byrl's father urged them to move back home to the area, said Byrl. "When this building became available, my dad thought we should come back home," she said. "We moved back and that's the way the whole thing started."

There was a slight confusion over exactly what they were buying, Byrl said. "We thought we were just getting a store and then we got a store and a restaurant together," she said. "We got two for one!"

Hummel's Market soon became Boyd and Wurthmann, as Herman Wurthmann and Dale Boyd became business partners. It wasn't until the mid-fifties that Boyd & Wurthmann became two separate buildings. The Boyds ran the grocery store portion, while the Wurthmanns took charge of the restaurant aspect of the business.

The Wurthmanns immediately moved into the apartment above the store. It was just right for the young family with one child and another on the way. "There was a pretty big kitchen," Byrl remembered. "Of course, we never used the kitchen. We always ate downstairs!"

Having the two businesses in the same building for a few years was convenient. Whenever the restaurant would run out of some food items, more was within reach. "We had an advantage, I know," said Byrl. In later years, the restaurant outgrew the designated area, and a nearby storefront was purchased for its use. A small house was in between the two buildings, and later the Wurthmanns bought the house and lived in it for several years.

Boyd & Wurthmann boasted of plain, ol' fashioned, good food. Back in 1945, the prices for that good food were a little different. "Our specials were 40 cents," said Herman. "Our coffee was a nickel. A piece of pie was 10 or 15 cents."

"We worked a long time before we could take in $100 in a day," said Byrl. The menu featured the basics, such as hamburger steak, pork chops, and ham or chicken, always with potatoes and a vegetable. "We tried to change our menu every day," said Byrl. Traveling salesmen made their way through on a regular basis, she said, and their goal was to give them a fresh option. "We rotated all the time," said Herman.

Pies are what really brought in crowds at Boyd & Wurthmann. In most restaurants they feel like they are offering a wide variety if they have 3-5 different kinds of pies. At B & W, as the locals know it, everyone has come to expect 15-20 different pies depending on what fruit is in season. For nearly forty years, Byrl Wurthmann took the task of baking fresh pies every day. At first, Byrl had the help of pie bakers. She was expecting her second child and wasn't able to hand the workload on her own. "Finally, I took over," she joked, adding that she still had help in the kitchen. "I had a lot of girls that were really good helpers." The ritual began early in the morning, with Byrl baking pies before the sun came up. "I baked as high as 75 [pies] in a day," she said. "That was on a real busy day. I usually baked about 25-30 pies a day."

Never one to make pies out of a can, Byrl said that she would make her daily pies fresh. "We'd go and pick our own berries [for fruit pies]," she said. "I liked to go and get our own fruit." From apple to elderberry, Byrl's pies were a great hit at Boyd & Wurthmann. "I started from scratch with about everything I did."

Although they've long since retired from Boyd & Wurthmann and have sold the business, the Wurthmanns still frequently visit. "We eat up there quite often," said Byrl.

Despite seeing over sixty years of change in Berlin, Boyd & Wurthmann hasn't changed a bit. It still sits in the original building. "The counter is still the same," said Herman. "The booths are the same."

Boyd & Wurthmann is a simple reminder of the days gone by, where you could draw up a chair, grab a newspaper, and enjoy a cup of coffee.