Dishing up Innovation
By Laura Leite Telescope News
(Sixth in a series. The pandemic has been a challenge for Republic county restaurants. Many found innovative ways to serve and support the community they call home. Over the next few weeks, the Telescope will take a closer look at local restaurants and how they have persevered.)
Kent Swartz opened the Rip City Inn restaurant in 1988 when he noticed a need in the City of Republic. The restaurant also features a small grocery store and is part of Republic Oil that he has owned since 1976. Kent purchased Republic Oil from his father, who owned the business since 1950.
“I had the gas station across the street, and it had groceries and a Deli Express,” said Swartz. “But I noticed that there was nobody to come to town to buy gas because there wasn’t anything to draw them to Republic because the old restaurant was closed.”
“I enjoy it when people come back to visit Republic and comment that the restaurant has helped to keep the town going,” said Swartz.
Swartz decided to buy the business after he had graduated from college with a business degree. “I had a couple of job interviews at other places and Dad said he was going to sell the business either to me or someone else and I decided to buy it,” said Swartz.
“It was a good decision to stay around here because it was a good place to raise my children and I had the support of the community and family when my wife was ill with cancer,” said Swartz.
“When everything was shut down during COVID, I gave everyone a month off with pay and I cooked hamburgers to go for anyone who ordered them,” said Swartz. “I utilized the payroll protection, but it was pretty costly for the business. We could stay open because of the grocery store but business was slow, including the takeout orders.”
“Business still isn’t back to what it was before COVID,” said Swartz. “People are still scared to get out.”
“One of our most popular meals is our Thursday noon meatloaf and hamburgers on Wednesday night,” said Swartz. “The hamburgers served are purchased locally from a farmer in Republic County.”
Betty Bouray works at Rip City Inn and as one of the cooks, she can attest to the popularity of the meatloaf. The recipe is from a former life-time resident of Republic, Josie Simms. Bouray said, “You don’t mess with Josie’s disappearing meatloaf recipe.”
Swartz and Bouray say that Rip City Inn is an important focal point for information and activity in Republic, and is not merely a business or a job to them, but an important part of the local community.
Rip City Inn is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the grill turning off at 2 p.m., except on Wednesdays they are open until 8 p.m. for hamburger night.
The café has a special every day that changes except for hamburger night and meatloaf on Thursdays, plus customers can order from the menu or take part in the soup bar that usually has three different soups.
Follow Rip City Inn on Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/RipCityInn.