Most folks who open a restaurant have had a lifelong dream of being in the business, or at the very least have a culinary background.
Not John Fortin and Paul Louderback. The pair opened their second in Newtonville (the first remains in its popular West Roxbury location) on Nov. 16.
“We had worked together at a design firm, and we’d talked about it, batted the idea around over a beer about having a small restaurant,” says Fortin.
“Yeah, over steak tips at in Waltham, too. We’d come up with more and more ideas,” Louderback adds.
In 2007 they saw the opportunity to turn their talk into reality. Fortin noticed that Auntie B’s in West Roxbury, right around the corner from his house, was for sale and he and Louderback jumped at the chance to see their ideas put into action.
Thus the was born.
Fast forward four years, and they saw another opportunity come their way when the KFC in Newtonville shuttered its doors. But, as with their initial endeavor, it wasn’t so much careful planning as happenstance that led to the decision to open a second Rox Diner.
“It wasn’t like there was this premeditation,” Fortin says with a laugh. “It’s always something you talk about, though. Paul was from Newton, he went to , and he knew the area and knew this’d be a good place to go to next.”
Louderback gives more details about their evolution.
“By this time, we had a really good staff (in West Roxbury), and we knew we didn’t really need to be there every day. I mean, we were, but we were only cooking like one day a week- and now we could do this.”
“This” isn’t what one necessarily thinks of when talking about diner fare. Fortin and Louderback have a firm commitment to serving organic, sustainable and locally sourced foods, something usually only seen in upscale restaurants with a much higher price point.
Both Rox Diners are also members of AROSE (an organization which describes itself on its website as “a restaurant environmental action group”) and last year, the West Roxbury branch was .
It’s seemingly a far cry from Fortin’s sole foray into the food industry at in Malden, a restaurant that has been in his wife’s family for nearly 25 years. But that locale and the Newton Rox Diner do have something in common.
“It does everything the right way,” Fortin explains. “Even if it’s not on top of every food trend, everything is perfect. And that’s the way I learned the crucial building blocks. We never say ‘it’s only breakfast, it’s only lunch.’”
In fact, in the near future, dinner will be added to Rox Diner’s fare – possibly as soon as late January. The owner/chefs have an idea that they’ll change up the décor a bit, add some flowers or candles to the tables – but nothing is set in stone.
“We’ll see how it goes and what people like and we’ll go from there,” says Fortin.
The Rox Diner already has a liquor license that allows them to serve mimosas with their weekend brunch, and they plan to expand this to beer and wine with dinner.
Other innovations coming are the inclusion of some of the popular Irish brunch items from the West Roxbury Rox Diner’s menu and a breakfast sandwich/drink special for $5.00.
Fortin and Louderback haven’t started advertising it yet, but they even offer a 20 percent discount to students and seniors, with the hope that they can make their restaurant more accessible to patrons who may be on a tighter budget.
But Fortin and Louderback really just want to make their customers happy, right from the get-go. And if the smiling faces on the diners who regularly have filled the seats at Rox Diner are any indication, they’re on the right track.
“Breakfast is the first meal of the day,” says Fortin. “If you get a bad breakfast, it could tilt your whole day in the wrong direction. If you get a good one, it gets you off on the right foot. People want to have a nice morning out, and that’s what we try to provide for them. They came for that reason.”