GALLIPOLIS — After searching for years for the right location and the right set of circumstances that would allow them to open a restaurant in the French City, the Schmidt family was welcomed Saturday by an eager community hungry to visit the area’s newest restaurant —Buffalo Wild Wings located on Upper River Road in Gallipolis.
During a brief ceremony held on Saturday night at a VIP party at the new restaurant, father and son team and franchise owners, Scott and Justin Schmidt, with the help of Justin’s six-month-old daughter, Mia, cut the ribbon christening the new facility.
The Schmidts, the proprietors of the Schmidt Family Restaurant Group, own 14 Wendy’s locations, two LaRosa’s Pizzerias and now, with the addition of the Gallipolis location, four Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, or “B-Dubs,” as they are sometimes called, throughout the Ohio Valley.
The Schmidts, who originally hale from Portsmouth, stated that a combination of factors drove their desire to open a location in Gallipolis, not the least of which is the close proximity of two other river cities.
“We liked it for the combination of the cities with Gallipolis, Point Pleasant, Pomeroy and with the amount of rooftops that were here,” Scott commented while pointing toward the many similarities Gallipolis and Portsmouth share.
“They kind of mirror each other with the demographics of the people, the school systems,” he said. “We were successful there, so we felt we would be successful here, especially because we’re at the right spot. We had other locations that we turned down because we needed to be at this end of town so it would be more convenient for the people of Gallipolis, Point Pleasant and Pomeroy.
“It was just a combination, and all the stars lined up,” Scott said.
Another draw for the the Schmidts who opened their first Buffalo Wild Wings in 2004 in Portsmouth was the proximity of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College.
Justin, who graduated from Ohio University in 2003, found a love for the restaurant during his college years when he would travel to the closest B-Dubs to watch games on Saturday afternoon. He believes Gallipolis and the surrounding communities will also soon share this love of the franchise.
“Portsmouth has been a great town to us. Ironton has been a great town to us, and we felt that Gallipolis is very similar. It’s a hardworking town that loves wings, they love beer and they love sports. So, we thought it was going to be a great fit,” he said.
The Schmidts’ move into the Gallipolis area was no accident and was thanks in large part, if not wholly, to the efforts of two local men, Randy Breech of Breech Engineering and Jim Blair of Blair builders. Together, Breech and Blair, through their business partnership JBRD Properties, purchased the property that was the former location of the Ponderosa Steakhouse and is now the home of Buffalo Wild Wings.
The pair contacted the Schmidt family and were instrumental in bringing the restaurant to the area through their work behind the scenes, including their advocacy for the passage of liquor licenses that were necessary for the construction of the restaurant.
During Saturday’s ceremony, Breech and Blair were presented with plaques by the Schmidt family for their vision and dedication to their community.
Breech spoke briefly and gave an open invitation to the community to visit and continue to return to the new restaurant.
“This day has been a long time coming. We’ve been working on this with Scott for about a year and a half now and, I must say, it’s been quite a journey. We’ve had a lot of help along the way,” he said. “I want to thank all of various sub contractors who worked with us on this job, the City of Gallipolis for all their help, Gallia County for all their help, the voters of our precinct for their help in getting our liquor license. It was a big burden we had to overcome, but we survived.
“I just want to thank everybody for coming, and I hope you continue to come. We want to see you here all the time,” Breech commented. “I appreciate all your support.”
Construction of the building began shortly after the March passage of two liquor licenses, and according to the franchisees, their use of local contractors was a very important portion of the process and was their first step in becoming acquainted with the community.
“[The contractors] are the ones that are your guests. They are the ones eating in here. Sometimes people look at the dollar sign on how much they are going to save, but they never see that person again. If you invest in the community, the community will reinvest in you,” Justin said.
In addition to bringing work to local contractors, the restaurant has also had an impact on the local workforce as employees from Gallia, Meigs and Mason counties make up the crew who will work behind the scenes to serve great wings, burgers and beer to the their eager customers.
“We couldn’t be happier with our folks and where they are. After a week of training, they are only going to continue to get better. I think right now we are at just a shade over 100 jobs that we’ve added. I think everybody wins with that scenario. So, we are happy that we brought that amount of jobs,” Justin stated.
While it is apparent that they have a passion for the restaurant business, it is also very apparent, when speaking with Justin and Scott Schmidt, that they have a passion for the communities that they serve. This was no more evident than on Saturday night during the presentation of a $1,000 check to the Gallia Academy High School stadium project by the Schmidt Family Restaurant Group. This donation is just the beginning of the support they will provide to high schools in the tri-county, according to Scott Schmidt.
“Our number one priority is schools. Everybody’s charity is important, but what we’ve chosen to do is hang our hat on one area and that is schools, especially high schools. So, we will be very involved with all the local high schools, here in this county and with our neighbors,” Scott said.
While standing in his newest restaurant on Saturday night, complete with sports memorabilia from all the area high schools, Justin Schmidt concurred with his father and stated that the biggest investment they will make to the area will be through the children of the community.
“Dad always says that our future is with the kids,” Justin said. “If it’s something that we think is a value to help kids in their education or athletic endeavours, then we’re always invested.”