Alpha Cafe - 7 East Auglaize St - Wapakoneta, Ohio - 45895 - 419-738-2013

Alpha Cafe, a local landmark for more than a century. A complete trip to Wapakoneta will include a visit to the Alpha, to view its wonderfully preserved interior, with ornate oak back bar.

  Welcome to

Back Bar 

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New Alpha

Bar Information

Current Location


Mirror Wall   

Alpha Front

Old Alpha Front

Phone Number

Hours of Operation

Outdoor Sign


Old Alpha

Old Location

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About Bill

Bill Gutmann

At the Alpha

About Marie

Marie Gutmann  

At the Alpha




Mixed Drinks 


Beer List

Non Alcoholic


Lunch List
Lunch Counter 

Lunch Menu Sign

Lunch Specials

Menu Photos 







Front Booth
Side Booths
At the Bar
At the Lunch Counter
At the Card Table


Good Folks


Reasons to Visit

Beer Signs


Old sayings


Old Crank Phone         



Basket Ball Team Photo



Directions to Alpha

Map to Alpha


Contact Us

Email Us

Mailing List

Web Master

Guest Book

Guest Log




Site map





       When it’s December 1st. The old sign is retrieved from the basement, dusted off, hung in the front window, and plugged in. Click. The sign which says Tom & Jerry lights up for all to see, announcing to passers by that the renowned Alpha Café Tom & Jerry holiday drink has been prepared and is ready to be served to the patrons.

        The Alpha Café is a small café/tavern located in downtown Wapakoneta, Ohio, with a 107-year-old back bar as the leading historical attraction owned and operated by my grandfather, William (Bill) J. Gutmann. Since 1938, Mr. Gutmann has seen many changes, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the Christmas time ritual of the Tom & Jerry holiday drink that is served from December 1st to January 1st.

     Why is this tradition still alive after all these years? What makes it so popular? What do the people who partake in this yearly holiday event bring to and take from this experience? What causes these patrons to share this close bond and interaction at the Alpha but almost nowhere else? Why do they have this bond in this place? Why do people of very different occupational status and class systems seem to leave these barriers behind when they walk through the Alpha doors? What is it about the Tom & Jerry (T&J) that adds another certain connection at Christmas time? Where does the T&J custom come from? What draws regulars back every year to share with others and to bring newcomers to the experience?

     The History of the Alpha and its owner are steeped in rich tradition, stories, and personal narratives. The back bar was built in 1893 by Brunswick Balke Collender Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. The company built three back bars of this large size, all similar in design, but each unique in its intricate carvings and shapes. One was destroyed in a fire and the other still remains in Arizona. The Alpha’s back bar is 24 foot long and is made of hand carved white oak. The wall on the opposite side of the bar is lined with a matching 8-foot tall wainscoting with arched mirrors and the same intricate carvings. At the end of the bar sits a column supporting a leaded glass partition. The back section of the Alpha is the café area. A short café style counter with stationary round swivel stools sits in front of the grill and serving counter. To the rear of the café counter, against the wall, is an old electric bowling machine.

     William (Bill) Joseph Gutmann started working in the Alpha as a bartender in 1938. In 1948, he bought into the partnership with Joe Miller and Harry Brunn. Miller had a stroke several years later and Gutmann and Brunn became joint-owners of the Alpha. In 1962, they moved the back bar and business from across the street to its present location at 7 East Auglaize Street. Gutmann bought out the partnership from Harry Brunn on June 24,1969 to become the sole proprietor. His daughter, Connie S. Gutmann has been the manager since 1984.

     The Alpha is unique in its appeal to different occupations, ages, and classes. On any given day you may find a lawyer, a construction worker, a county engineer, a farmer, a retired bank president, or a shop worker all sitting around the small café bar discussing the weather, politics, current events, or recent town gossip. This social interaction is most evident in the early morning hours with their coffee routines. A group of four will most likely be sitting at a table playing an old German card game called Sheephead. What is so unique, is that many of these people do not socialize elsewhere in this small town other than the brief encounters of day-to-day business.

     Daily conversation in the Alpha will invariably contain some type of history and story. An example of a traditional story that has developed over the years is the story of Harry Schwepe, a former partner of the Alpha with Joe Miller, being "done away with" during prohibition. Someone will make a comment like, "I hear he wore cement shoes when he went fishing at Russel’s Point!" Bill Gutmann will retell the story of how back in the prohibition days, when gambling and bootlegging were dominant in the area, there was a feud between Wapakoneta tavern owners and Russel’s Point tavern owners. Harry Swepe, was in Russel’s Point when someone "slipped a mickey" in his drink and threw him into the lake. Another story of the prohibition era is when Al Capone frequented the Alpha when he was staying at the Valley View Hotel in Wapakoneta to "get away from Chicago until things cooled down".

     Occasionally, a gray haired, balding man may walk up to Bill and say, "Do you remember me? I was a paperboy and came in here and drank Vess Cola!" Sometimes he remembers them and other times not. The Wapak Daily News building is directly behind the Alpha and on rainy days the paperboys would come in and wrap their newspapers while sitting on the bowling machine. Many, now in their fifties, still frequent the Alpha and bring their children and sometimes even grandchildren in to meet Bill and "see the Alpha". Bill is proud to say that he has served five generations now.

     When the bar was moved from across the street, many of the men from town helped in moving the large pieces of the back bar. On occasion a patron will stop in and begin telling personal narratives of how he was one of those volunteers. Bill and the mover will sit and brag how they moved the back bar on a Sunday, and with all the help of movers, plumbers, and electricians, "Never missed a day of business".

     There are many sayings that can be heard regularly. Here are some examples:

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This page last update ( 07/08/09 10:08:33 AM )
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