It was a sad day in Fairborn when in 2015 Roush’s Restaurant announced it would be closing.
The restaurant had been open for more than 50 years and had become one of the more popular restaurants in the area.
It all began in 1961 when Walter Roush and Arthur McGuffey purchased Dairy Crest, an ice cream store located on Broad Street. They decided that the patrons might enjoy more than just ice cream and added sandwiches to the menu. It wasn’t long before they expanded again to include a full dinner menu. One of the more popular meals consisted of roast beef and mashed potatoes with all the trimmings for $1.25.
Soon the name of Dairy Crest did not match the cuisine, and they changed the name to Roush’s Restaurant.
Business picked up, and other favorite foods were added to the menu. The partners determined that they should consider expanding the current location or purchase a larger place of business so in 1975 they closed the Broad Street restaurant and reopened a new, larger facility at 305 W. Main Street.
One of the better features was the addition of a private dining room. With this addition the restaurant could boast the ability to seat 175 individuals at a time. Several organizations booked the room on a regular basis for lunch and dinner meetings.
When the first owners retired, Mike and Joyce Gharst decided it would be the perfect business for them and in 1988 purchased the restaurant. In time, they added a variety of other items to the menu, along with some specialties of the house.
Mike was no stranger to Rush’s Restaurant. Before he went to college, he was working as yard boy during the day for a trucking company and in the evenings he was a cook at Roush’s Restaurant. This proved to be an exhausting 70-hour week for the young man.
He decided that he needed some free time and left his position as Roush’s, maintaining the daytime job.
While Mike was college, he was informed that if he would like free pizza, he should apply for a position with Domino’s. Free pizza for a college kid sounded good and he applied for and got the job.
This became a career for a while, managing various Domino’s stores in the area, but he found he was going to have a pay cut and decided that he should look for another opportunity. It was about that time that he found Roush’s was up for sale. He and Joyce — with money they had saved and with the aid of his father and a friend — were able to make the purchase.
Mike and Joyce were excellent managers of the restaurant and hired capable assistants. One of those who worked for then had previously been with the former owners. Nancy Hail worked a total of 40 years at the restaurant. She had given some consideration to retirement but had planned to stay on a little longer. When the decision was announced that the restaurant would be closing, she decided this was an omen and a time to retire to a more leisurely life.
The Gharst’s first few years were a time of growth but 9/11 and the closing of the gate to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Route 444 were both factors in an ultimate decision to close.
It was hoped that someone else would want to take over the business, perhaps a second generation, but that didn’t happen. They hoped to find a buyer who would be young and energetic to keep the restaurant going, but that didn’t happen either,
Finally after considerable thought and discussion, Mike and Joyce, decided it was time to be relieved of the very busy schedule and retire so they would have more time to spend with their grandchildren and do some traveling.
The sad announcement was made first to the staff, so they might consider other employment opportunities, and then to the public. They had owned the business for 28 years and said that it was a most difficult decision, but one they felt they had to make.
The various organizations which had regularly met there had to seek other places for their meetings.
On a personal note, I had eaten at the restaurant several times, but the most remembered was the time I enjoyed gracious assistance on short notice. I had invited a group of friends to visit Greene County over a weekend. There were about 40 of us. We had visited the Wright Brothers Memorial and part of the group wanted to visit the Air Force Museum. The other part wanted lunch, and wondered where to go. I bravely led a group of 18 or 20 to Roush’s.
This was an unplanned visit and when I explained that I had several hungry friends, I was asked to wait just a few minutes. In no time at all, the banquet room was set up for us and we enjoyed a delightful meal. There were only smiles at my request and I heard no comment about calling first. I never forgot the kindness and courtesy extended that day.
This was the end of a 54 year era of excellent food and service in Fairborn.
Remembering Harry Kendig
During the Fairfield-Osborn merger, Harry Kendig served as secretary of the Osborn Removal Board. He also owned a department store in old Osborn which was moved to Fairborn when the two towns merged. He was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Fairborn where he appraised property for the bank. Born in Pennsylvania, he came to Ohio with his parents in a covered wagon at the age of eight.
— Joan Baxter
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.