(click here to read post on Rock n Rogers at Eola Inn location)
By Connor Mitchell
Glen Stonebrink has completed his resume.
The former rancher and lobbyist for cattlemen today is selling burgers.
On April 1 with his wife, Loydee, Stonebrink purchased the two Rock-N-Rogers restaurants.
Sitting beneath the 1959 pink Cadillac grill that extends out over a booth at the South Salem restaurant, Stonebrink said the transition from rancher to restaurant owner is educational.
As a cattleman, Stonebrink said he often felt shortchanged when it came to beef prices.
“On this end, I’m learning what we can sell food for,” Stonebrink said. “Everybody in the food chain has to make a profit or the chain doesn’t work.”
Stonebrink said he fell in love with Rock-N-Rogers and its ‘50s and ‘60s decor the first time he walked in the restaurant.
“It was my era. I don’t know if I ever took the smile off my face,” Stonebrink said of that first visit.
Later, when gauging whether to purchase the restaurant, Glen and Loydee found the staff and customers also had a love for the restaurant.
Several of the staff had been there upwards of five and even 10 years, Stonebrink said, including restaurant manager Tom Cowdrey, who has been there 11 years.
And many of the customers were long-time regulars.
“The first thing they said when they found out we were going to buy the restaurant was ‘You’re not going to change anything, are you?’” Stonebrink said.
Stonebrink, 71, and Loydee, 65, said no and largely have stuck to their word. But they have added batter fries and improved the New York strip steak by instructing cooks to remove gristle and fat before preparing the orders.
They’ve also improved the coffee by switching brands.
Also, Stonebrink said he is considering going to locally grown, branded beef for the burgers the restaurant is famous for.
“It’s fine beef,” Stonebrink said of the Midwest beef the restaurant currently serves. “But I’d rather get my beef from Oregon.”
“We’re not going to sell anything we don’t personally like,” Stonebrink said.
The ‘50s and ‘60s memorabilia that is spread throughout the restaurant isn’t going anywhere, he said, nor are the multiple burger selections, the milk shakes and malts offered on the menu. And nor are the ample servings.
“We always go home with doggy bags,” Stonebrink said.
Ultimately the decision to purchase the restaurant hinged in large part on the economics. Even in the recession, Stonebrink said, the resturant was making money, and had been for a long time.
“It was still in the black, which is better than the stock market, and it had staff and management in place,” Stonebrink said.
“It’s not like we were starting a new place,” Loydee said.
Stonebrink said he immersed himself into the business of running a restaurant by sampling the many jobs in restaurant work.
“I wanted to learn the business from the bottom up and I figured what better way to do it than to do the jobs,” he said.
Stonebrink said he came in one day and washed dishes. He’s cleaned tables. He’s spent rainy spring days on the roof of the Commercial Street and Market Street restaurants fixing vents.
Just two months into his new experience, Stonebrink said running a restaurant, while challenging, has been “more enjoyable than I thought.”
But joy is a big part of why Glen and Loydee made the plunge into restaurant ownership.
“If it was just a bottom-line dollars and cents business, we probably wouldn’t have bought it,” Stonebrink said. “It needed to be an experience. And it has been.”
Rock-N-Rogers locations are 3135 Commercial St. SE, and 3235 Market St. NE.