Five decades of dining: Sale ends Jerry Kellogg’s restaurant careerPublished 10:14am Thursday, December 27, 2012
When Jerry Kellogg and his brother, Jim, opened the Oak Grill in 1954, all they wanted was something to do. Jerry was just an 18-year-old high school senior, and had no idea it would become the popular hangout for kids his age, or that it would propel a 58-year career in the restaurant business. But it did, and five decades later, he is finally out of the game.
“We thought it would just be something to pass the time by, but we had a lot of fun, and it went over good, so we kept on going,” Jerry said.
Jerry — who first opened the Oak Grill, then the Oak Leaf and finally Jerry’s Other Place — sold Jerry’s on Dec. 14, marking the official end of his time in the restaurant business. While he now owns the AmericInn hotel in Austin, he spends half his time in Palm Springs, Calif., enjoying his retirement on the golf course. But after Jerry sold the last restaurant, he admits he had mixed emotions.
“It was a relief in a way, because I’m old enough and didn’t need the headaches, but I’m going to miss the customers and staff over the years,” he said.
His daughter, Cindy Powell, who runs the AmericInn with her husband, Larry, said it is hard to imagine her dad not running a restaurant.
“It really seems strange for me,” she said. “All my life he’s had a restaurant. It’s an end of an era.”
Powell remembers her dad carrying her up the stairs of the Oak Grill when she was a young child, and other memories abound from those early years.
Things were going well enough at the Oak Grill in its first 10 years that the Kellogg brothers opened the Oak Leaf in 1964, and sold the Oak Grill, now known as Kenny’s Oak Grill. In 1972, Jerry bought out his brother’s portion of the restaurant, and Jim bought The Old Mill restaurant, which he owned for roughly seven years. In 1979, Jerry bought the Other Place, and ran both restaurants until 1983, when he sold the Oak Leaf, which is now the Moose Lodge. Owning two restaurants was hectic, Powell recalls, but that is the reason Jerry’s Other Place has its name.
“Everyone [at the Oak Leaf] would always ask, where’s Jerry? And we would say, ‘He’s at the other place,’” she said.
For more than two decades, Jerry ran Jerry’s, and he got to know the customers by name, like he had at his other ventures. In 2004, when a flood ravaged the restaurant, they actually brought food to some of the regulars while they were shut down.
“Our customers were family,” Powell said. “We had some people eat there three times per day.”
Those customers — and his employees — are what Jerry will miss most.
“You always miss the customers and the staff,” he said. “You enjoy working with thousands of people over the years. There were lots of good memories.”
As an 18-year-old senior in high school, Jerry would open the Oak Grill in the morning, go to school, then go back and work after school. He said he loved meeting his friends at work, who became his regulars. At Jerry’s decades later, the crowd got older, Jerry said, but they remained loyal customers to the end.
“We had a lot of regulars all the time,” he said. “We were very fortunate.”