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Popular restaurant owner dies in fire

Janko's Little Zagreb employees shocked by news

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Feb. 22, 2006 

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The owner of Bloomington restaurant Janko's Little Zagreb died in a house fire five miles west of Spencer Sunday night, according to Indiana State Police reports.

Firefighters discovered John Pouch, 62, in his burning Owen County home, according to reports. Although Pouch lived alone, he is survived by two sons and a daughter from a former marriage.

Scene investigators found his body near the front door, leading them to believe Pouch entered the house during the fire and was overcome by smoke.

An autopsy, which took place Tuesday but has yet to return results, should reveal the exact cause of death.

Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. David Bursten said the fire appeared to be accidental, but that investigations of this nature are treated as homicides until foul play can be officially ruled out.

Bursten said the case is being investigated by the Owen Valley Fire Department, the Owen County Sheriff's Department, the State Fire Marshal and the Indiana State Police.

With heavy hearts, Little Zagreb employees re-opened the restaurant Tuesday after closing for a day.

"He was like a godfather to all of us," said former kitchen staff member John Floyd. "He's like your good uncle or something. He was a pal."

Floyd received a call with the news and came to see how his friends at Little Zagreb were doing.

"Everyone's pretty bummed about it," said Floyd, affectionately referring to his former boss as "Old Janko." "He was a good friend to us all."

Pouch, whose family emigrated from Zagreb, Croatia, bought the restaurant from his brother a few years after he opened it in 1973. Pouch turned it into a steak house and operated it ever since.

"They're known for the best steaks in the state, big fat potatoes and the personable service," Floyd said. "That's what they say."

Floyd said Little Zagreb has served several celebrities in the decades it has been open, including singer and songwriter Paul Simon. During his employment at IU, former men's basketball coach Bob Knight had his own table where he often ate at with his team. Indiana native John Mellencamp has made frequent appearances as well.

Floyd said IU recruiters often bring their recruits to Little Zagreb for dinner, and said: "Basically, every IU football and basketball player has eaten here."

Little Zagreb management and employees say they have every intention of continuing to operate.

"No one really knows yet (what's going to happen)," Floyd said. "But they're going to stay open because we know that's what he'd want."

 

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