That Meetball Place in Patchogue is still less than two years old.
But boy, has it got a lot of history.
Not only was the building built over a century ago, the Main Street restaurant is covered — inside and out — with wood from a barn that stood on a Pennsylvania hill from 1893 to 2013.
The barn’s rough sawn siding was used to create That Meetball Place’s unique exterior facade, as well its bar and communal tables. The old wood can also be found up and down the walls inside.
The history of the barn itself came to life Monday at the restaurant.
“My grandfather had a couple antique cars on the second floor,” explained Dale Zeisloft, who purchased the Bloomsburg, Pa., barn and its surrounding 6.5 acres from his grandfather’s estate in 2007 and later tore down the barn to sell its wood. “The barn was also where he kept his horse, Commando, for 30 years.”
Zeisloft and his wife, Emmy, met Monday afternoon with That Meetball Place co-owners Ralph and Joseph Reale, and director of operations John Hesse.
The owners, which also include Scott Colletti and Mike Vandenberg, purchased the wood for $30,000 plus $7,000 in shipping costs from a dealer in 2013. It was worth every penny, they say.
“It definitely transformed the look here,” Ralph Reale said. “We were going back and forth with our builder and architect. We considered a marble top for the bar, or a red bar. But it wasn’t really fitting in with our theme. But then with [the wood] it started to take on a life of its own. Even the whole front of the building.”
“The front looks wonderful,” Dale Zeisloft said.
How Monday’s meeting came to be can best be described as serendipitous.
Dale Zeisloft had a first cousin who was having dinner at The Meetball Place with her husband late last year when she noticed a large, black-and-white photo of the barn on display in a hallway there.
“They happened to be walking by and saw the photo, and we overheard them saying it was her grandfather’s barn,” recalled Hesse. “They remembered it from childhood. It was a busy Friday night so we didn’t get talk to them much. Then a couple weeks ago we were told [the barn’s prior owners] would be coming through as part of a visit.
“It was just wacky. How does that happen?”
Zeisloft explained that his cousin and her husband were living in Stony Brook at the time but have since moved to Chicago.
“She had told an aunt in Florida, who told my parents in PA, who told us on Christmas Day,” Zeisloft wrote in a synopsis of the series of events. “After some research … we were pleasantly surprised with the use of the barn lumber.”
Zeisloft and his wife took the trip from Pennsylvania to see up-close what became of the barn Monday before making their way toward Orient to hop a ferry toward Gotham, Maine, where the old barn’s heavier timber helped build a home.
The trip to Long Island also afforded Emmy Zeisloft a chance to visit her father’s grave for the first time. He’s buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.
Her dad was a veteran and a New York City police officer who died of cancer when she was just 7.
The couple also explained that the barn was part of what the extended Zeisloft family referred to as “The Cottage” property, which Glen and Harriet Zeisloft purchased in 1957 and through the years invited relatives for summer retreats and holiday gatherings.
There was the cottage, a 2.5-acre pond and the barn on a hill overlooking the lake.
“The property … was a place where we had our Easter and our Thanksgiving dinners as a family,” Dale Zeisloft said. “Many of the direct family members lived there as newlyweds. We used to do fishing in the pond. We would swim in the pond. We would ride our bicycles off the boat dock and into the pond.”
“But over the years, everyone grew up.”
The couple eventually bought the land in 2007 after Harriet Zeisloft died and then Glen Zeisloft died on Christmas Day night in 2006.
After purchasing the property, they had hoped to rebuild the barn in order to use it to host gatherings for family and friends.
But due to zoning and safety issues, that idea proved to be too expensive, they explained.
On Monday, the couple was enjoying lunch atop a table made from the barn’s planks when they spoke about what the trip to That Meetball Place meant for them.
“We love it,” Emmy Zeisloft.
“It’s rewarding for us,” Dale Zeisloft said. “We went out on a limb to buy the place and we wanted the barn to be preserved. and to see it preserved is touching for us, and to see it done with such class.”
The barn was painstakingly dismantled in the spring of 2013, a process that was documented in photos on a daily basis by a neighbor in Pennsylvania. (See video below.)
By December of that same year, the prized wood had found its way to Patchogue Village. It also happened to find its way to a place that bills itself as a restaurant where everyone can meet and have a ball.
Just like the old times in Pennsylvania.
Top photo: (L-R) Dale Zeisloft, Emmy Zeisloft, Joseph Reale, John Hesse and Ralph Reale on Monday.