Handing over the keys: New owners to take on the Towne House

November 2010 Posted in Business

By Kristine Thomas Siblings Kelly Miller and Rick Rolie have sold the Towne House. Their family had owned it since 1963.

Kelly Miller and Rick Rolie both knew it was time, but that didn’t make their decision any easier.

In October, they sold the Towne House Restaurant to Scio resident Craig Carner. Their father, Loren Rolie, purchased the restaurant in 1963.

“We don’t know how long it was open before then,” Miller said.

Over the years, they have worked in the basement prepping food or washing dishes. They have tended bar
and waited tables. Open seven days a week, there was little time for rest from the demands of owning a family business, closed only three days a year.

“Our dad retired when he was 55 years old,” Miller said. “I am now 58 and Rick’s 57. We both want more time to travel and do other things.”

Rolie and Miller cherish the memories they have had at the Towne House and are grateful for their faithful customers.

“We have made a lot of good friends,” Miller said.

“I have enjoyed knowing all the people,” Rolie added.

The horseshoed-shape counter is a gathering spot for locals who meet in the morning and the afternoon to discuss what’s happening in the town, state or nationally.

“People meet here to talk about whatever is happening,” Miller said. “Or they come to the Towne House to find out.”

The retirement of her husband, Jim Miller, from the Salem Police Bureau after 40 years inspired Miller and Rolie to sell the restaurant and retire.

“It was a hard decision for me,” Miller said. “I will miss all the people but I still planning on coming here for a beer or a cup of coffee.”

She started in the basement doing prep work such as making bread and homemade fries. Eventually she managed the day-to-day operations. Miller says she’s come along way since the first time she tried working at the restaurant.

“She didn’t quite cut the mustard because she complained too much,” Rolie said with a laugh.

Miller returned in 1974, working 36 years. Rolie has worked 40 years, with his current tasks being cutting meat, grocery shopping and maintenance. Their older brother, Rod, worked at the restaurant for more than 30 years while their younger sister, Kim Riley, never did.

During all the time the siblings have worked together they can’t remember ever having a squabble.

“We are best friends,” Miller said. “What worries me the most about selling the business is that I won’t see Rick as much.”

They plan on taking trips together, though, including to the Oregon Coast to go crabbing.

Many of their customers have been concerned about the sale because the Towne House has become an “institution” for meeting and discussing ideas as well as getting a good meal.

“We are selling a lifestyle almost,” Rolie said.

The restaurant has a tradition of being open 362 days a year, even on Thanksgiving.

In 1995, Miller decided anyone who came to the Towne House on Thanksgiving would receive a free dinner.

“I was worried about some of the single men who came to the Towne House and wondered where they were going to eat,” she said. “I thought of inviting them to my house for dinner but it worked out better to have it here.”

The dinner, Miller said, was meant for people who would otherwise be alone for the holiday.

As they pack up 47 years of memories, they are both a little sad and excited. They’ve provided the new owners with a list of contacts and worked with them for a week.

“We followed our dad’s business plan which was provide good service, be friendly to everyone and make sure they feel special,” Miller said.

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