EDMOND — When Twelve Oaks Restaurant, 6100 N Midwest Blvd., opened on a rise in the rippled prairie land east of Interstate 35 along Waterloo Road in 1994, one local man’s dream came true.
His name was Bill Horn, and for the last 18 years of his life, he lived a dream hatched at The Haunted House. A professionally trained hairdresser, Horn spent 25 years as head waiter at the iconic eatery owned by Art and Marian Thibault. Between his wages and tips at The Haunted House, a job managing the Rio Motor Hotels in Fort Worth, Texas, Ardmore and Oklahoma City, and a beauty shop, Horn was able to build enough savings to purchase land in far northeast Edmond.
Horn farmed and ranched the land, but he ultimately wanted to build a restaurant on the highest spot on the property. And the kind of place he wanted on the land wouldn’t be cheap — so he thought.
In 1990, Horn stepped into a Guthrie barbershop to get his hair cut but overheard a conversation that would change his life, which had already been full. Within earshot, two deacons from First Baptist Church in Guthrie discussed property recently purchased adjacent to their church that they believed would make a prime parking lot. Problem was a two-story, turn-of-the-century Victorian home was perched in the middle of the land. Demolition, cleanup and ensuing headaches could all be vanquished, “if we could just find someone to move the home,” one of the deacons dared to dream aloud.
Before anyone could say “Hallelujah,” Horn cut a deal to purchase the beautiful white house for $550, provided he parked it elsewhere within 60 days. And that’s what he did.
“It cost a lot more money to move the house than it did to buy it,” said Bill’s daughter, Lisa Janes. “He had to pay to have power lines raised to get it out here.”
After four years of exhaustive remodeling and landscaping, Twelve Oaks opened on May 7, 1994. Horn, then 64, brought with him a young server he’d trained and mentored named Kristi Jolly, who remains general manager, bartender, server and perpetually gracious today.
For the next 18 years, Horn lived his dream. The restaurant flourished, and Horn even maintained hair for a list of long-time clients. But in September 2012, Horn’s life was claimed by acute leukemia.
His daughter, who at the time was a nurse at St. Anthony, was faced with a difficult decision: keep her father’s dream or sell it off.
You don’t think I would be writing this story if Janes had taken the money and run, do you?
“My father had talked about selling it at one point,” she said. “I said, ‘If you’re done, then you’re done, and it’s time to sell it.’ And he said, ‘Who would I talk to?’”
A life that led him through nine years in the Air Force, hotel management, hairdressing and ranching was never as fulfilling as basking in his extended family of faithful diners. Keeping Twelve Oaks alive was as close as Janes could come to keeping her father alive. So, she stepped out of her own successful career to partner with her husband of 35 years, Gregg Janes, to keep Twelve Oaks running. Jolly still runs front of the house as she has since the first day the place opened, and back in the kitchen is chef Mo Chahcoi — the first chef the restaurant ever had.
But the decision wasn’t made lightly. Lisa Janes said she determined if Twelve Oaks was to remain open, change was needed.
“My father hadn’t changed much in the last 20 years,” she said. “He’d slowed down some and just didn’t have the energy to make the changes that were needed.”
So the Janes and Jolly closed the restaurant for 10 days to restore the space to its glory. The landscaping was updated, the menu freshened, and Bill’s picture was mounted just inside the front door.
Today, Twelve Oaks is one of the area’s most stunning settings in which to dine or celebrate. Chahcoi’s menu contains classic dishes with country flourishes, like grilled quail. The property is a popular spot for weddings, rehearsal dinners, receptions and proposals. The Janes even converted a small upstairs room into a private table with its own window view of the prairie.
But don’t be fooled. As beautiful as Twelve Oaks is, Jolly insists it’s not a formal dining room.
“Men come in here in shorts and flip-flops,” she said. “I draw the line at wife-beaters.”
Twelve Oaks is a living tribute to Bill Horn, whose paternal care passed to more than just his children. And this ongoing tribute is the community’s gain. You won’t find a more scenic spot to mix steak and a bottle of wine with prairie respite. But you will find a picture of Horn on the wall just inside the entrance where he can keep an eye on his ongoing dream.
If you go
Twelve Oaks Restaurant, 6100 N Midwest Blvd., Edmond, opens at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closes after the last guest is finished. For reservations, call 340-1002. For more information, go to twelveoaksrestaurant.com.