Corey Webb can’t count the number of times, while growing up, he heard people ask, “Whatever happened to G.D. Ritzy’s?”
Many of them, including a close friend, had no idea he was the son of the restaurant chain’s founder.
“We were talking about it and this friend asked me, ‘How do you know about Ritzy’s?’ ” Webb said with a chuckle.
Webb always has known nostalgia was strong when it came to the restaurants, only three of which remain in West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky.
The throwback chain, known for its simple menu of burgers, fries and shakes, was founded in 1981 and once had 100 locations. The last local store, which began at Reed and Henderson roads in Columbus, closed in 1991.
That changed a year ago, when Ritzy’s (no “G.D.” this time) opened at 4615 N. High St. in Clintonville. When Webb – along with his father, original founder Graydon Webb; brother Bryan Webb; and friend Drew DeVilbiss – announced the reboot was forthcoming, the interest, fueled by the aforementioned nostalgia, was high.
But they all knew it would take more than nostalgia to make the new Ritzy’s work.
“Everyone has a different memory (of G.D. Ritzy’s),” Corey Webb said. “Our struggle was to update it without neglecting what it was, to keep that nostalgia but freshen it up for people who don’t remember or never knew what it was.”
Webb said since the restaurant opened Sept. 6, 2018, they’ve been largely successful at that balancing act.
“We were so busy last September through December, we were working hard and making new customers, but we needed a chance to hone some of our skills,” he said. “I feel like our product now is vastly better than when we opened.
“When you’re doing everything fresh, there are so many variables. Each week, we figure something out that makes it better.”
“I hope we’ve captured at least some of what people remembered,” Graydon Webb said.
Both father and son affirmed their intent is to add locations in the future but said it’s too soon to speculate on where or when.
“We definitely plan to open more than one, but we’re still working some things out, like deciding on whether we want to make ice cream at every location or to do it centralized,” Corey Webb said.
Graydon Webb noted that late in the chain’s run in the ’80s, it grew too fast, adding too many franchises in a short time period.
“We’d like to avoid making some of those same mistakes,” he said.
Corey Webb said new menu items, such as macaroni and cheese, are in the works, and the fall ice-cream flavors, including maple bacon and pumpkin, are not far off.
In the meantime, they’re enjoying making gourmet hamburgers, hot dogs, shoestring fries and ice cream in a neighborhood location. Having a fully functional walk-up ice-cream window at the front of the building, adjacent to a small set of bleachers, adds to the hometown feel.
“There’s a kid in the neighborhood who comes in every day with his dad and gets a hot dog,” Corey Webb said. “I have a friend whose young son calls ice cream ‘Ritzy’s.’ ”
“Clintonville was a great spot for us before,” Graydon Webb said. “I love being here in a neighborhood, where people can walk in or walk up – the ice-cream window is fully functional now – and start to create some new nostalgia.”