Restaurant owners retire after nearly 33 years in business


By Sheryl Roadcap

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TROY — It’s the end of an era for long-time customers, family and friends of Dunaway’s Beef and Ale, as the restaurant’s former owners Sandy Dunaway and Brenda Ludwig decided to hang up their bar towel and trade in their bar keys for RV keys. The couple, who are life partners, are excited to see and travel across the country in their RV during retirement.

“It was time. And we are glad for a fresh start,” Ludwig said, with Dunaway in agreement. “We are old and tired. We are 69; we are ready to move on to the next chapter and are excited to travel.”

Dunaway’s, located at 508 W. Main St., Troy, was owned by Dunaway and Ludwig, for nearly 33 years. They officially handed over their keys to the restaurant and sold the property, which includes the building that houses the restaurant and apartment above it, as well as an apartment building to its left and a large parking lot in the rear, on Feb. 23.

“It was time to breath new life into Dunaway’s,” Dunaway and Ludwig said in unison “But we are going to miss the people.”

Ludwig and Dunaway hails from the East Coast; Dunaway from New Jersey and Ludwig from Pennsylvania. They conceived the idea to open a restaurant together once they realized they shared a love for cooking and serving people. Dunaway was the cook, having dabbled in catering near the end of his career with General Motors, and Ludwig the server, having the bar, server and manager experience of running the Italian restaurant where she worked when they first met.

“My sister said, ‘I found the place you have been looking for to open your business.’” Dunaway recalled, when explaining that they had surveyed several other cities and states for the perfect spot to open Dunaway’s. “‘It’s a place called Troy,’ she said.”

So after finding Troy to be a charming, small town, the Irish pub opened its doors on July 12, 1991, after a year of remodeling the former office space of Panasonic.

“We worked on it ourselves,” Dunaway explained. “And we didn’t know anyone, except for my sister (who did not reside in Troy).”

The couple said Dunaway’s wasn’t a hit right away.

“They just didn’t get us. We had a vision and they weren’t familiar around here with what we were doing at first. And we served our food in baskets, which a lot of places do now, but at that time, no one was doing that,” Ludwig explained.

However, their annual, famous St. Patrick’s Day bash was hit from the very first year, and it only grew and grew every year afterward.

“People would come to ours, especially from the north, because it was a lot closer than going all the way down to Dayton,” Lundwig said.

When asked if they were sad to be missing their annual Irish party this St. Patrick’s Day, they both admitted they were not, partly saying it is due to the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to plan and put on that event.

“We are tired and ready to pass the torch,” Ludwig said.

“You have to start planning that the next day (after St. Patrick’s Day),” Dunaway said.

They reminisced about numerous staple events, challenges and the food Dunaway’s was famous for, including the “Sand-wich challenge.” Another big event, other than St. Patrick’s Day, was their annual Chili Cook-Off that was always a big hit. Strawberry Festival celebrations, including breakfast pizza; weekly karaoke; regular live music; and the food were the big draws to the restaurant and bar.

They offered authentic Irish food and drinks, including Rubens, corned beef sandwiches, Shepard’s Pie and several other food and drink items that were regularly available other than on St. Patrick’s Day. Their roast beef sandwiches, Garbage Truck pizza and Sandy Dunaway’s chili were also favorites.

The couple say they would like Dunaway’s to be remembered for the quality of their food and hospitality. They noted that they always bought fresh, local ingredients.

“We got our meats from Caven’s Meats in Conover. I always said the food you are eating today was walking around last week,” Dunaway said with a chuckle

Dunaway and Ludwig said meeting new people, who became friends and then family, are among their favorite memories. Ludwig said with the Hobart Welding School being close by, they got to meet many people from around the country.

“It really was like a ‘Cheers’ (establishment),” Ludwig said. “We got to know thousands of people who were friends. We were on the third generation (of patrons). It began with people our age who came in, and then their kids, and now their grandkids were coming in.”

The closing of the former Dunaway’s has left a hole in the heart of some. Long time friends, customers and (at times, when needed) employees of the restaurant, Greg Richardson and Rodney Foster have mixed feeling about it closing.

“It’s sad, but I am happy for them to get to go on and do what they want to do,” Foster said.

Richardson agreed, “I have mixed feelings, a little sad it’s gone; I am happy and sad. I’m very happy for them to move on to what suits them. I’m going to miss them and I’m going to miss the bar.”

“We are going to miss our friends and family — our Dunaway family,” Dunaway said. “We are going to travel to North Carolina or Florida or wherever we want, but we will be back in town and I’ll send them a message when we will be back in town.”

“The new owners (which has maintained the Dunaways name) will breathe new life into it. They have lots of new, good ideas. I think the new owners will be good for Dunaway’s,” Ludwig said.

“And I don’t mind seeing my name on it. A piece of Dunaway’s will always be here,” Dunaway said with a smile.

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