Growing up in Dublin, Ohio in the 80s and 90s, fast food was not a daily part of our diet, particularly because our mother was, and remains, a fantastic gourmet chef. But, we did grow up on the same street as the international headquarters for Dave Thomas’s Wendy’s. There was the occasional ice cream cone at McDonald’s after a soccer game on Saturday morning, and infrequently we could talk our parents into stopping at one of the fast food restaurants in the neighborhood. Just a stone’s throw from the Wendy’s HQ, we had a Wendy’s, not in the same location as the current Wendy’s Flagship Restaurant, complete with in-restaurant museum, but just down the hill, right at the corner of Dublin Granville Road and Riverside Drive. This Wendy’s featured a salad bar and beautiful stained glass fixtures for most of my childhood. It sat on the historic grounds of what used to be the “Columbus’ Beautiful Suburban Supper Club“, which later became the Dublin Nite Club, and eventually burned down in a spectacular fire in 1967, just three years for before our Dad would move to Dublin.
But, just across Dublin Granville Road from Wendy’s, at the bottom of a steep driveway, where you can now find the Acura Columbus, sat a regal red roofed Rax. I recall my Dad enjoyed their chocolate milk shakes, and I remember they had roast beef, similar to Arby’s. The typical order for a young Bryan was probably roast beef on bread with sickly sweet barbecue sauce, French fries with ketchup for dipping, and a chocolate shake. Rax, like Wendy’s and White Castle, and many other restaurants, was started right here in Columbus, around 1980.
Dan Keck from Ohio / CC0
My Dad was a small businessman, and put nearly all of his resources into running the Animal Medical & Emergency Hospital, and providing a wonderful life for our family, but over the years I became aware of a few of his investments, including a moderately successful cart racing horse (a story for another day), and a small investment in Rax Systems, Inc., the Columbus-based franchisor of the Rax restaurants.
Yesterday, the Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers posted this video about Rax restaurants, and revealed to me, for the first time, why my father’s investment in roast beef and chocolate shakes eventually became null and void, after Rax filed bankruptcy in 1992. After this, my Dad often said that anything he invested in would eventually go belly up. However, his greatest investments, in his family, friends, and community, have flourished and grown in value.
A few Rax Restaurants remain open, and one of the key employees of the original Franchisor has acquired the rights to the brand and is making another effort to expand the franchise, as From Rax to Rich’s Inc. They including restaurants in Lancaster, Circleville, Chillicothe, Ironton, West Union, and Georgown, Ohio, Harlan, Kentucky, and Joliet, Illinois. I recently visited one during a visit to the Griffith Tree Farm.