Editor’s note: This is one story in a series about local businesses in the City of Fairborn. This feature puts a face to the names of those that have been part of the community for many years – some of those best-kept secrets.
FAIRBORN — Rumors have circulated that Roush’s Restaurant was planning to close. However, it is not the case. Here’s some history and an update.
Mike and Joyce Gharst own Roush’s Restaurant downtown Fairborn.
In 1961, Walter Roush and Arthur McGuffey decided to start a restaurant with no experience – only a vision. They purchased an ice cream store called Dairy Crest. This business sat on the crest of the hill on North Broad Street in Fairborn across from what is now Paulus Butcher Shop and Country Store.
They changed the name of the business to Roush’s Restaurant and added some sandwiches to the menu. The first dinner served was roast beef on mashed potatoes. They began making homemade bread for the restaurant from a recipe the owners borrowed from a sister, which is still used to this day.
Roush’s expanded twice, once in 1967 and again in 1969. In 1975, the restaurant moved to its present location at 305 W. Main St. It seats 170 bodies and the banquet room adds another 100 seats. It employ 16 people and is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The resturant offers a family-style menu with all three meals, as well as a birthday club with more than 3,000 members of which they mail out a coupon for making a purchase on their birthday.
In July 1988 the owners decided to retire and sold the business to Mike and Joyce Gharst. Now that McGuffey and Roush were no longer owners, they would often stop in for coffee or to talk and see how Gharst’s were doing.
The Gharst’s are co-owners and his father, who was a silent partner who helped them get started and fulfilling their dream. His dad stopped in on a regular basis to get coffee and visit with Mike until he died about two years ago.
Mike grew up and raised his family in Fairborn. He has three kids who graduated from Fairborn, but they’ve never worked for him because he said he believes, “Family and kids working is not always a good idea with you being parent and boss.”
The Fairborn native worked nights at Roush’s his senior year high school, but not taking the job seriously led to his loosing that job. He would later go on to Wright State University and manage a local pizza chain and realized he needed more – Mike’s father helped him get started and buy Roushes.
“I love telling folks I got fired from Roush’s then bought it,” he said.
Mike said he understands what former owners McGuffey and Roush were talking about when they wanted to retire – 28 years later, that is his goal. The owner wants to spend time with his grandchilren, gardens and other projects he wishes to fulfill.
“I want to enjoy things, and with my wife’s support we are trying to sell the business,” he said.
The couple hopes that someone will want Roush’s and let it support them and their family like it has for them and those who came beforehand.
“Its a wonderful restaurant and good income for someone wanting to start a business and fullfill a dream,” they said.
Over the years, the restraunt owners have believed in supporting the community where it could.
For 10 years they have been feeding the school football team. They have additionally had a couple of kids come back and thank them, remembering how generous it was for the Gharst’s to give their time, food and support.
The school band and basketball team has also had the Gharst’s support; they believed in giving and said they did it from their heart without expecting anything in return except the good feeling knowing they were helping kids and doing what is right for Fairborn. They have had many other groups from other communities and towns ask for support, but the Gharst’s feel faithful and supportive of Fairborn as Fairborn has been to them.
“We need younger people that are more creative and tech savvy, as I don’t know all the new stuff out there and at my age in life it’s just easier to retire,” Mike said. “We hope they will keep it a family restaurant and even the name.”
JoAnn Collins is a Fairborn resident and guest writer.