A kind-hearted managing style one key to eatery
By Jennifer Woods
There are several different ways to approach management of small businesses in today’s society. Located in Washington Court House in Fayette County is “Our Place Restaurant,” which is owned by a kind-hearted and hard-working couple.
Juanita and Dick Davis have been married for over 30 years. Life-long residents of Fayette County, both Juanita and Dick used to work as bus drivers for Miami Trace Local Schools in Fayette County — he worked there for 27 years while she worked there for 18 years.
“Dick and I came in here (to Cider Mill at the time) and ate all the time. When we’d get off the bus jobs in the mornings and at night, we’d come in here and eat. At that time, the previous owner — one night one of the waitresses didn’t show up, and I told (the owner), if it happens again, call me and I’ll help ya. Then she put me on the schedule,” said Juanita.
She would then work at the restaurant after driving the school bus. Eventually, the owner spoke to her about buying the restaurant, as they were going to sell it.
Juanita and Dick then bought the local restaurant in November of 2000, and her sister came up with the name, “Our Place Restaurant.”
Juanita Davis is a people-person and is constantly hands-on at the restaurant.
“I’ve been here every day for 22 years other than when I’ve been in the hospital,” said Juanita. “It’s my nature. (The staff) does fine, they run it fine, but if somebody calls in, I can go in and fill that spot.”
Dick is a local farmer who also handles banking, maintenance, and order pick-ups for the restaurant when needed.
“He does his fair share, that’s for darn sure,” Juanita said.
Juanita likes to approach staff management from a more relaxed view.
“Some of them say I’m too soft with the workers,” she explained. “But, I find you get along better if you’re not a hard-nose. As long as they get their work done. I’ve got two workers that have kids — well, most of them have kids — but two of them are scheduled for 8 o’clock in the morning, but their kids don’t get on the bus until a quarter after 8. So they come in after that, and I don’t have a problem with that.
“I work around everybody’s schedule. I’ve got three (employees) now that are still in school. Young kids. They’re good little workers, but they can only work evenings. They can only work four hours, three days a week, but they need part-time jobs, and they’re good workers.”
Four staff members originally stayed on after they purchased the restaurant. Since then, one has retired, one has passed away, one has left for employment elsewhere and one is still employed at the restaurant.
Although she is comfortable with her current staff, Juanita explained one of their biggest challenges right now is the current staff shortage many businesses are experiencing.
Another one of the biggest challenges they have faced in the business is in the current market is high food costs and no availability of several items. Juanita explained how costs have easily doubled and even tripled for main menu items.
“It’s unreal — the food prices, and trouble getting items,” said Juanita.
Even with the struggles in managing a small business during the pandemic, Juanita believes they have been and are continuing to be successful, especially as they have such a large focus on and love for their clientele.
“Most of our clientele is older people, and that’s OK,” she said. “I think it’s because it’s home-cooking — it’s cooking that they’ve grown up with.”
Her late ex-husband, Jim, suffered a stroke and was blind afterward. For several years prior to his passing, she would pick him up from home to take him to the restaurant for breakfast and dinner, and would then take him back home. She also started picking up and dropping off her mother-in-law once she was no longer allowed to drive.
“They’ve both passed away. Jim passed away on a Monday (in 2019), she passed away on a Tuesday. Back-to-back,” said Juanita. “After they both passed away, I felt lost. I thought, ‘I’m not needed anymore.’”
Since then, one couple that were regulars whose children do not live locally, recently went through a health decline and are not able to get around like they used to. Juanita delivers food to them twice a day to make sure they can still enjoy fresh meals.
When asked why she would do so much for others, especially when she is already busy with the restaurant, she explained, “I would want someone to do it for me, and I would want someone to have done it for my mom and dad.”
She also gives a discount to first responders.
“Some of them don’t like it,” she said. “‘You don’t have to do that,’ they say. (I tell them), ‘But one of these days, I might need you.’”
While Juanita has four children from her previous marriage and 10 grandchildren, it’s obvious she has expanded her family through her managing style and personality.
There are no plans of retirement in Juanita’s or Dick’s future.
“I’m not going to sit at home all day long,” she said. “Dick can farm, and I can stay here (at the restaurant).”
Our Place Restaurant is located at 827 E. Market St. in Washington Court House. Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.