New Ripley restaurant Roadhouse 2081 is now open for business
To say the road to getting his Roadhouse 2081 restaurant open was a long journey for Scott Ludwig would be an understatement.
Finally on Labor Day, the doors to Jackson County’s newest eatery were unlocked and business went well.
A perfectionist, Ludwig delayed the opening of his new casual family steakhouse a few times to make sure things were just right.
“We’ve had a great first day,” said Ludwig, looking tired from hours and hours filled with both excitement and nervousness.
Like so many restaurant owners, the past year has been difficult for Ludwig.
COVID-19 ultimately forced him to close the Ponderosa restaurant, a place he had been a part of since 1991.
“It was good to us,” Ludwig said of the Ponderosa. “It was our beginning in the restaurant business. When we started there were 660 locations. It had gone down to 16.”
His contract was expiring with the franchise in June of 2020 and he decided it was best to try something new.
“I just felt with everything going on (the pandemic), a buffet and bakery (a staple of Ponderosa) was not a good idea,” he said.
It was tough to close the business that had been a part of his daily life for so long.
“It was good for 30 years, but it was time to move on and do something else,” said Ludwig, a 1978 Ripley High School graduate and former Viking basketball standout.
Leaving the restaurant business entirely wasn’t something he was ready to do, so he started exploring.
It was a tedious process.
“I was going to go the franchise route again. It’s an easier way to go about things. They do it all for you,” he said. “But there’s a big price to pay these days.”
The final decision
After months of mulling around several ideas, Ludwig decided to start something of his own.
“I tossed it around with my accountant,” he said. “He said, ‘You’ve got 30 years of experience, do it yourself.’”
Ludwig researched nearly 12 different concepts from across the region.
“I’ve taken a little bit from all of them,” he said. “Plus, I’ve utilized things from Ponderosa.”
The Roadhouse 2081, located in the former Ponderosa building, menu features 13 starters to get you going. Everything from mozzarella cheese sticks to wood fired flatbread pizza.
Six different salads are offered along with broccoli and cheese soup and chili.
In the sandwich line, the restaurant’s menu has nine different choices, including mouth-watering burgers to a Philly steak to an All-America Club.
The menu is highlighted by an array of steak and seafood options along with ribs and chicken.
Desserts are also available.
Starting a new restaurant in a building 30 years old meant a long renovation process.
Once Ludwig decided on which direction he wanted to go, the work started on the transformation of what was once a buffet-style restaurant to one that would be completely different.
Like all projects, there were snags along the way.
Ludwig kept the faith.
“There were times you couldn’t get metal, paint, furniture, lights, signs, flooring, food,” he said.
His plan was to open on June 29.
When that date came and went, the new target was August.
He started out by serving first responders from around Jackson County for a couple of days.
After some issues unfolded, he put off his grand opening until Labor Day.
“It all finally worked out,” he said.
The new restaurant seats 190 inside and 16 outside.
Roadhouse 2081 comes complete with a full bar.
Saluting his staff
Ludwig would like to have 50-60 employees working at Roadhouse 2021 but admits he’s not close to that number yet.
He applauds those who have stuck with him through the process of opening, especially many who were with him at Ponderosa.
“That’s been a big blessing. They’ve been loyal though all of this. They stuck with me,” said Ludwig. “I didn’t lose that many. I’m blessed.”
Ludwig wants the operation to go smoothly each day with no snags. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week.
“We’ve got some bugs to work out. Being the perfectionist that I am, I want it to be top-notch,” he said. “On day one everybody gave it everything they had. I’m proud of them. We will keep fighting and battling. We just need to have a great attitude and we will be just fine.”
As one begins to launch a new business, perhaps the most difficult decision is coming up with a name.
Ludwig toyed with many.
He liked the name Roadhouse for many reasons.
As far as the numbers attached are concerned, it’s a combination of two from both his athletic days and that of his late father, Max, who started the restaurant with the late Lee Wilson. Max Ludwig was a daily fixture at the restaurant before passing away.
From his Ripley basketball days, Scott moved on to star three years at Glenville State College. While at GSC, he was the nation’s top free three shooter one season. During his time as a Pioneer he donned the number 20.
Max Ludwig, also a Ripley High graduate, played football at West Virginia University. He was a member of the 1954 Sugar Bowl team.
While wearing the gold and blue, Max Ludwig’s number was 81.
Both Scott and his father are members of the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame, which honors sports greats from seven counties (five in West Virginia and two in Ohio), including Jackson.
“We probably tossed around different names six to eight weeks,” he said. “One night I was watching a food show and it was about this restaurant in New York named Prosperity 22. I liked it. I liked Roadhouse Grille, but then found out that was a chain. So sports have always been a big part of our lives. I wore 20 and so did my son, Brooks (who played at both Parkersburg South and Salem University) and dad wore 81. I thought it fit.”
He truly loves the slogan for Roadhouse 2081 — “Food, Spirts, & Friends.”
“I want people to come in and feel like a friend. We’re all friends having a meal together, cutting up and having a good time,” he said. “And we want people to leave having had a great time while also enjoying a great meal.”
Ludwig said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many, especially his wife, Trish, and son, who is a manager at the restaurant.
“I couldn’t have done this without them. My son works hard and Trish works hard. They have been very supportive, encouraging and inspirational.”
Family means everything to Ludwig. He’s lost plenty with the passing of his father, mother (Peggy) and only sibling, brother Mike, who was the state of West Virginia’s leading scorer in basketball during the 1974-75 season while at Ripley High.
Wilson, too, was like family.
Ludwig named menu items after the four.
“Mr. Wilson’s Chili” is one. “He came in here every day and had a bowl of chili and a piece of chicken,” said Ludwig.
“Peggy’s Farm Salads” headline all the options in that part of the menu.
“Big Max,” named for his father, is a double-decker cheeseburger.
“Michael’s Ribeye” is named for his late brother. The two brothers always enjoyed sharing meals together.
“I tried to find something they all loved,” he said. “It was a shot of appreciation to them and respect to them.
“I know they are looking down and I hope they all are proud.”