Reaching a Milestone
Harry’s Stone Grill marks its 10th anniversary in Madison, Ind.
Harry Dobbins found his niche after previous ventures
(September 2020) – Running a small business is a hard task. Taking over a restaurant and making it even more successful is almost unheard of. Keeping your doors open and holding on to your employees during a pandemic might be the ultimate challenge. And yet this is what has happened at Harry’s Stone Grill restaurant, located at 621 Clifty Dr. in Madison, Ind.
On Aug. 28, Harry’s Stone Grill celebrated its 10th anniversary. The restaurant is owned and operated by Harry Dobbins. Like many business owners, his journey is long with many stops along the way. After getting out of the U.S. Marine Corps, Dobbins had a short stay at running a gun shop in Tennessee.
He started out in the restaurant business as a fry cook for Wendy’s. That was back when there were old ladies running around asking the question, “Where’s the beef?” Harry found plenty of beef when he took the job managing several stores in southern Indiana and eventually moving to Madison.
He bought the Wendy’s store on the north side of Clifty Drive that is now a Sushi Bar. A new Wendy’s was built next door as part of the transition.
Photo by Ben Newell
Harry Dobbins and Sandra Drew are pictured at Harry’s Stone Grill in Madison, Ind.
While putting in long hours there, he watched the old Thompson Dairy being razed across the street and a new restaurant being built called Cabana Joe’s. He thought that someday he would like to run something like that but really didn’t think it would happen.
His first venture into a different kind of establishment was in 2003 when he purchased Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, also located on Clifty Drive. After making numerous changes to its operations, the business became more successful and gave Dobbins confidence that his ideas were solid and that he could take on more challenges.
Dobbins’ next move was to partner with Stacy Fields to buy The Downtowner Restaurant on Main Street, and then Roger’s Drug Store, which they completely remodeled and renamed it Shooters Restaurant & Sports Bar. Then in 2010 out of the blue, Dobbins received a call wanting to know if he would be interested in buying Cabana Joe’s, which by then had been sold to a new owner and renamed Maverick’s. He didn’t think he could because of all the capital that he had put into his other restaurants, but he changed his mind when he was offered what he thought were very favorable terms. So finally, he now had the place that he had always wanted to own. He sold his interest in The Downtowner and Shooters to Fields.
In the remodeling process, Dobbins came across a unique theme for the eatery, presented by his friend, Tom Wynn, an avid bow hunter. Wynn had a number of his small and large game trophies that he could not display and offered to lend them to Dobbins, who eventually purchased them. As you look around the large dining room at Harry’s Stone Grill, you will see many specimens that you will recognize and some that you have never seen before. As you’re waiting for your food, you can play the game, “How many different species can you spot?”
When asked the reason that Harry’s is so successful, Dobbins replies, “I believe it’s because of the good employees and the number of people I hire. When I first bought the place, we had eight employees. Now we have 48. During the evening rush we may have 10 cooks in the kitchen.”
One of those employees is Sandra Drew. She is originally from Cincinnati and has been working for Dobbins since 2003. Drew managed Mr. Gatti’s and has helped manage Harry’s Stone Grill since it opened.
“Harry is a good guy to work for and he makes it feel like a family workplace,” said Drew. “I enjoy the challenge and the other people I work with.” When asked about the good and the bad of working here, she thought for a moment and said, “ Well, getting to know the loyal customers and sometimes we get a surprise visit. Like one time Icky Woods, who played running back for the Cincinnati Bengals came in. He was real nice but he didn’t do the shuffle for us.”
For the worst thing, she pointed to the mask she was wearing. “I hate wearing this thing, but it needs to be done for the customers.”
Speaking of the masks, Dobbins reflected on the impact of the coronavirus on his business. “It was a real shock when we were first told we had to shut down. I was still paying bills because all businesses are working from behind, and I was afraid that I was going to lose my retirement and my employees. Fortunately, the government’s Paycheck Protection Program helped out, along with our great costumers who ordered takeout. Now we are at 50 percent capacity, and we are lucky enough to have the back banquet room to put people in if we need it.”
Dobbins continued, “It’s probably a combination of that not all the restaurants are fully open, and our loyal customers, but we are on track to have one of our best years ever. And I just want to thank again my employees and all the customers who have supported us.”
And just to let you know, Harry takes your safety seriously. Even the lone moose on the front wall is social distancing and is wearing a mask.
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