Some restaurant and pub spaces in town seem to change concepts — and sometimes owners — with every change of season. And then there are those special places like the Oregon Express.
One of the cornerstones of the Oregon Historic District, the “OE” has had the same family ownership for 33 years — and make that 34 this coming Saturday, Sept. 16, on the anniversary of its purchase and reopening by Joe Bavaro and his brother-in-law Terry Adkins. Joe and his wife Susan Bavaro oversee the bar and restaurant now, while Adkins serves as principal at St. Brigid Catholic School in Xenia.
The three owners of the Oregon Express are our Daytonians of the Week. And if you haven’t tried their pizza, well … you should. Here’s a closer look at the folks behind the OE, in their words:
How long have you owned and operated the Oregon Express?
Joe Bavaro and his brother-in-law, Terry Adkins, purchased and reopened The Oregon Express on September 16, 1983. Joe and his wife Susan Bavaro operate the pizza tavern on a day-to-day basis. Terry stays involved but is dedicated to his Catholic school gig.
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What prompted you to get into the tavern/restaurant business?
Joe: Growing up in an Italian family, food and friends are a big part of our life. The O.E. originally opened in 1976 but was closed and shuttered in 1983 when we became aware of the opportunity through a friend of a friend. Terry was already in the food business and his uncle, who owned a successful pizza chain in California, was a big influence on our business model. And what better way to make a living than working with family, making new friends and serving GREAT pizza!
What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
Terry: My wife Kim and I enjoy all of the MetroParks, as well as Glen Helen, John Bryan State Park, and every bike path we have had the chance to explore. Cold O.E. pizza is my favorite snack on the trails.
What do you love about life in the Dayton area?
Susan & Joe: The area’s appreciation for great independent restaurants, the good schools, affordable living, friendly people, manageable traffic and a rich history make us proud to call Dayton, Ohio our home.
How have you been able to compete so effectively against national chain pubs?
Terry: Our business plan is not limited to what some corporate office decides is best for its bottom line. We have always stressed quality recipes and ingredients made and served the way you would treat your family and friends. We hire good people who can be their own personalities, and we pride ourselves on high expectations and their great friendly service.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Joe: Bring back the Dayton vs. Wright State basketball game. The crosstown rivalry needs to be an annual event. It was great excitement for the Dayton community in the winter months. The ball is in your court, UD!
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Terry: The Oregon District has always been a popular and successful business and entertainment destination and neighborhood of Dayton for the last 30 years. The recent explosion of additional interest and investment in the district and the whole downtown Dayton area bodes well. It all points to a future center city of multiple choices of where to live, work and play in a dynamic urban center for the Miami Valley region.