Booches preserves local identity

Inside+Booches+lies+a+nostalgic+atmosphere+of+a+bygone+time+unaffected+by+the+contemporary+style+of+modern+day+restauraunts.The+sound+of+billiards+echoes+in+the+background+while+silent+sports+games+are+played+out+across+the+bar%E2%80%99s+TVs.%0APhoto+by+Aniqa+Rahman

Inside Booches lies a nostalgic atmosphere of a bygone time unaffected by the contemporary style of modern day restauraunts.The sound of billiards echoes in the background while silent sports games are played out across the bar’s TVs. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Blake Becker

Inside Booches lies a nostalgic atmosphere of a bygone time unaffected by the contemporary style of modern day restauraunts.The sound of billiards echoes in the background while silent sports games are played out across the bar’s TVs. Photo by Aniqa Rahman
Inside Booches lies a nostalgic atmosphere of a bygone time unaffected by the contemporary style of modern day restauraunts.The sound of billiards echoes in the background while silent sports games are played out across the bar’s TVs.
Photo by Aniqa Rahman
Nestled in the middle of 9th Street Columbia lies a burger joint-pool hall acclaimed by locals and magazines as one of the best restaurants in the United States.
Booches’ first owner, Paul Blucher Venable, started the business in 1884; since then, it has gone through many owners but consistently upheld its quality of burgers. USA Today even listed Booches’ cheeseburger as one of the top 10 burgers in the United States in 2000.
Booches is a popular restaurant for long-time Columbia residents of all ages and provides a unique, homey atmosphere. Entering through the small entrance, a pair of classic flat-top grills sit alongside a large, well-crafted backbar. Across the backbar the restaurant is furnished with assorted tables and seats of quality woodwork. Following the walls filled with comic panels, posters referencing Booches, witticisms and Cardinal baseball photographs lead down the single room to a line of pool tables and snooker tables accompanied by lines of pool cues. This sets the stage for Booches’ pool hall/burger joint appearance.
The atmosphere, added with the old-fashioned burgers, makes Booches the first choice for senior Brandon Erbschloe. Erbschloe first went to Booches around the age of eight and said it has become one of his favorite places in Columbia.
“A lot of other pool bars, they actually just have pool and beer and stuff. And if they serve food, it’s not really … But what Booches is about is its held this essence about it for so long. Like, I know in society right now, we’re all watching these things change all the time, but Booches has been this chunk of our history in Columbia that’s always been here. I hope it stays here forever, and that’s probably the most appealing thing about Columbia.”
Booches’ history is sometimes influenced by serendipity. Current Booches owner, Charlie Kurre, first walked into Booches by coincidence.
“It was about 1979, and I was walking to class, and I lived over by Stephens College. I preferred to walk 9th Street as to Hitt and Main Street, so I was walking to class with about three inches of snow on the ground, and this fella in an old ‘64 Chevy Impala was stuck out in front , so I got another student to help me push him out. The fella stopped, and I said, ‘Don’t stop; you’re out now,’ and waved a five-dollar bill and said, ‘Why don’t you guys have a couple beers on me?’ and he pointed here .”
Kurre graduated with his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1981 and his Master of Fine Arts in 1989, proceeding to teach Arts and Ideas at Columbia College for 13 years. However, Kurre had difficulty furthering his career as he had few offers of little promise and high risk, leading him to purchase Booches in a business partnership, he said.
“Most positions I applied for were one year positions with possible renewal, and that would be in Detroit, Chicago, Louisiana, in one year, and if they did not hire me back, well there I’d be without a job. It wasn’t paying much more than I was making here, and then I would have to move and relocate, so I just started saying, ‘Well, I’ll wait it out and see if something comes up.’ Jerry finally retired in ‘04, so Rick, my partner, and I bought it from Jerry in ‘04.”
Though purchasing Booches was a large investment and a major shift in Kurre’s profession, he said he was confident in his decision and knew well enough how to manage it.
“I’ve been working here since 1985, 28 years now,” Kurre said, “so at that time we bought the place, it would have been 19 years, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into.”
While Booches maintained their style of burgers, Kurre said the restaurant has experienced some dramatic changes. It made a shift to focus more on being a resturatnt rather than a pool hall. Booches also started a literary magazine, ‘Review La Booche,’ that featured pieces by high-profile writers such as Frank Stack and Richard Eberhart. The magazine was started in 1976 by owners Mick Jabbour, Jerry Dethrow and Bob Rappold, all of whom were English majors.
“Jerry was in poetry. Mick was in short stories, and I’m not sure what Bob was doing, but they were all writers,” Kurre said, “so before, they bought Booches, there were two more pool tables in, here and it was pretty much a men’s club, not a lot on food; they didn’t have a big dining area. Mick, Bob and Jerry changed it into what it is now, they took out two pool tables and got a bigger grill and bought these dining tables, so the Booches we know now is due to Mick, Bob and Jerry.”
Many see Booches as a link to a style of old-fashioned, casual dining scarcely seen today. This appeals to patrons like Erbschloe, who said he relishes the opportunity to eat there.
“What makes the hamburgers themselves is that you just see them right there. They just put the meat on the grill and put cheese on it, and it’s probably the simplicity of them just giving you a hamburger on wax paper. That’s probably what makes it the best thing.”
For World Studies teacher David Graham, Booches holds further significance than just its food. For Graham, Booches was a place that was more than somewhere to hang out with bar buddies; it was where Graham could find mutual friends of his father’s that he could connect to on a more familiar basis.
“When passed away in 2006 and then Kerri, my wife … went into the hospital with pregnancy complications in the fall of 2007 and that was around two years after Dad had died, so I started going down there on Fridays when she was in the hospital for three months,” Graham said. “So every Friday during that time when she was doing some tests, I would leave and go down to Booches and hung out with those guys, and they all remembered me from a couple years prior, and I hadn’t been there in a bit, and so they kind of took me under their wing. That was kind of a trying time for me with both Dad’s death and Kerri’s pregnancy.”
For Graham, Booches brings to the table not just a quality burger, but a quality of people who give Booches a permanence in Columbia, separating it from other bars.
“It’s much more of an emotional attachment for me because of the time and support they gave me during Dad’s death and then during Kerri’s stay in the hospital,” Graham said. “Those guys were just fantastic about that and really supportive of me during that time and still are wonderful folks.”