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Robbery latest in rough year for owners of Hops & Barleys; benches a reminder of fathers who both died earlier this year

By Dan Miller

Posted 7/17/19

It had already been a rough few months for Steve Wian and Jason Melhorn, co-owners of Hops & Barleys, before July 9.

That’s the day someone broke into the Middletown bar and stole an …

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Robbery latest in rough year for owners of Hops & Barleys; benches a reminder of fathers who both died earlier this year


It had already been a rough few months for Steve Wian and Jason Melhorn, co-owners of Hops & Barleys, before July 9.

That’s the day someone broke into the Middletown bar and stole an estimated $2,400 to $3,500.

Wian had been sidelined with health issues. And in May — within eight days of each other — both their fathers died.

Wian’s father, Lee A. Wian of Mechanicsburg, died on May 14. Melhorn’s dad, Thomas D. Shuler Jr. of York, passed May 22.

In memory of their fathers, the partners had two benches made and placed in front of Hops & Barleys at the northeast corner of Main and Union streets.

One of the benches, the one closest to the iconic “Seamus” waiter permanently standing guard next to the front entrance, has a small engraved plaque in honor of Melhorn’s dad.

Next to Shuler’s bench, separated by large flower pots, is a matching bench with a small plaque engraved in remembrance of Lee A. Wian.

The benches had been there about a month, but the engraved plaques had only been put on a few days ago, Wian told the Press & Journal on Thursday.

He and Melhorn were planning to “lock down” the benches, in light of the recent difficulty the bar has had keeping Seamus from wandering off.

Seamus had been stolen around the Fourth of July. Melhorn and Wian posted a plea on the bar’s Facebook page for help retrieving Seamus.

The response was “intense,” Wian told the Press & Journal. “I think we ended up with 900 shares reaching 85,000 people. He (Seamus) was found within an hour and a half of my post.”

“I knew he was the most well-known figure in Middletown, but was unaware how well until I started reading the comments,” Wian said.

After being returned home, Seamus spent the night inside Hops & Barleys for safe-keeping. The next day he re-emerged at his usual post — attached to the building by a chain.

Warning anyone with similar intent about the benches, Wian said, “If they get swiped, there would be hell to pay.”

Lee Wian’s obituary noted that after retiring, Lee became “the self-appointed maintenance man for two restaurants owned by his children where he gave his time and money to help these ventures attain success.”

Steve Wian said his father was “the care taker of Seamus during our ownership” of the building and business. “He painted him countless times, re-attached his arm twice.”

Lee Wian was at the bar every Tuesday, Wian said, making sure the outside “looked presentable.”

Lee would also clean up the inside along with his wife and Steve’s mother, Elizabeth L. Yearick Wian. The two celebrated 62 years of marriage shortly before Lee died.

“He wanted to do whatever he could to give us at least a day break,” Steve said of his father’s devotion to Hops & Barleys.

Jason’s father, Thomas Shuler, wasn’t as familiar a presence because he worked nights, Wian said.

“We rarely got to see him,” Wian said of Shuler, “but you could tell the kind of man he helped raise in Jason. Strong, confident and peaceful.”

The two benches are “a small sign of what our fathers meant to us and our ability to keep them in our thoughts,” Wian said. “They will never leave our memories and now thanks to the benches they will never leave the community’s either.”

Before Hops & Barleys, Wian since 2006 had owned and run the business as Guido McNeal’s.

In September 2016, Wian, sounding somewhat burned out, decided to close Guido McNeal’s and put it up for sale. “I’m just tired,” Wian said at the time.

But in October 2017, Wian announced plans to rebrand and reopen the business as Hops & Barleys. He was re-energized by a new business partner, Melhorn, whom Wian had known about 15 years.

The two aimed at making Hops & Barleys Middletown’s “Cheers,” the bar where everybody knows your name made famous by the TV sit-com that ran from 1982 to 1993.

Two days after the break-in, shortly after Hops & Barleys opened at 5 p.m., the place was already lively with customers at the bar and seated at tables. A family was in for dinner. The bar was hosting a fundraiser for a local Cub Scout pack.

The burglary is a setback, but it won’t defeat what he and Melhorn are doing with Hops & Barleys, Wian said.

“I’ve worked too long and too hard for anything to go haywire. Adding Jason was a positive directional move and we won’t let each other down, including the loyal staff and regulars.”

Hops Kids

Melhorn, whose wife is a teacher, has spent the past year quietly launching and, with Wian’s help, building Hops Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids and their families enrolled in Middletown Area School District.

Hops & Barleys held several canned food drives and through Hops Kids opened a pantry at Reid Elementary School. The pantry assisted 17 to 20 families in the past year, Melhorn said.

“If they needed groceries, they could go into the pantry and take whatever they needed,” Melhorn said. Hops Kids asks only in return the parents be “actively involved” in their child’s education, such as making sure they get to school and attending parent-teacher conferences.

As a second component of Hops Kids, Melhorn worked with third- and fourth-graders at Reid over the past year on behavioral issues. He came in and talked to the students as a class about what it is like to start and run your own business.

A third-grade class at Reid earned enough points through the program for an ice cream party, with the goods supplied through money raised by Hops Kids.

The pink T-shirt with the HK logo Melhorn was wearing is part of a clothing line he has put together to raise money to support the nonprofit. For every Hops Kids clothing item sold, Hops & Barleys will donate $1 from that sale to the nonprofit, Melhorn said.

“I want to do business different than other people do business,” he said. “You can still be successful and be generous and give back, and that’s what I’m going to build a business on.”

Melhorn hadn’t been ready to go public with Hops Kids, but the July 9 burglary pushed his hand to do so.

When people look up Hops & Barleys on the web, he doesn’t want news of the burglary to be all they see.

“I don’t want our story to be about the negative that’s happening. I’m going to give you some positive,” Melhorn said. “I’m not going to let negativity be the highlight of what’s happening. There’s so much more happening than that. Bad stuff happens to all of us.”