Rax’s return to Clark County a step in rebirth of roast beef chain

Owner tells nostalgic customers: ‘We’ve kept true to the brand as much as we can.’

For Rax owner Richard Donohue, the addition of the restaurant to the New Carlisle area is a return to the company’s roots and a continuation of the roast beef sandwich chain’s revitalization.

The chain known for its roast beef and cheddar sandwiches once had locations throughout the Midwest, having its start in the 1960s in Springfield with a restaurant called “Jax,” according to Donohue.

The Rax company went bankrupt in the early 1990s, but its resurrection in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois is work at the hands of Donohue, an Ironton native.

Donohue bought the 2353 S. Dayton-Lakeview Road location at Park Layne earlier this year for $260,000, according to Clark County Auditor’s Office property records.

The restaurant was formerly a Ranchers Roast Beef shop, and Donohue said the previous owners did not want the area to lose a restaurant.

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“It was an opportunity,” he said. “It served New Carlisle for years. Our concept is similar, but not identical, so we thought it would be good to offer our brand back to the area.”

The restaurateur said customers often come into his shops to share memories of the restaurant they had as children and teenagers. Others have come in to check out the restaurants where they once clocked in for their first job.

Donohue said he loves hearing about the nostalgia surrounding the brand and wants to continue the tradition of the food.

“We still cook the meat the same way… we’ve kept true to the brand as much as we can,” Donohue said. “People remember the brand, like the brand.”

The New Carlisle location is a drive-thru only and will be for the foreseeable future. Donohue said he hopes to open the location’s dining area, but staffing issues have produced challenges for the location.

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The New Carlisle restaurant will be painted sometime in the coming months. Its Rax sign went up earlier this month.

Donohue has spent decades with the company, starting as a crew member in 1982 as his first job outside of high school and working his way up to Rax store manager in Ironton. He later bought the Ironton restaurant in 2002.

He has since bought the Rax trademark and now owns all six Rax restaurants.

The New Carlisle restaurant’s opening is another step in the chain’s growth. Donohue said he’s acquired property in Chillicothe for another location and is open to further growth.

“We are looking to expand and continue,” he said.

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