Both Lance Stewart and the restaurant he now owns and operates — the Oakwood Club — faced a pivotal year in 1992.
The restaurant at 2414 Far Hills Ave. in the heart of Oakwood was celebrating its 30th anniversary that year. Lance Stewart was 38 and had been working in the restaurant since graduating from the University of Cincinnati. But that year, Lance’s father Ray died of pancreatic cancer.
“Those were hard shoes to fill,” Stewart told us. “But I had to jump right in and protect everything that he had built.”
That’s exactly what he did. And this year, the Oakwood Club will celebrate its 55th anniversary, marking a quarter-century under Lance’s direction.
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Lance Stewart is our Daytonian of the Week, so we picked his brain a bit about his restaurant — which, by the way, captured first place in the "Best Fine Dining" category in Dayton.com's Best of 2016 — and more.
Q: What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
A: I like Carillon Park, Hills and Dales, and the Dayton bikeways.
Q: What do you love about life in the Dayton area?
A: It’s a great place to raise a family!
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Q: How have you been able to compete so effectively against national chain restaurants and other local independent steakhouses?
A: The Oakwood Club has loyal employees who take pride in their work, consistency, high quality products, and service.
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Q: Were there times you considered not taking over the restaurant and doing something completely different?
A: Yes, I do not think a day went by that I didn’t question my decision to enter the business. I then went to train in the kitchen and found the challenge absolutely rewarding!
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
A: Red wine, of course!
Q: If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, would it be?
A: Dayton has a shortage of trained high tech workers, we need better training to fill jobs that will help propel Dayton’s economy.
Oakwood Club celebrating its 50th year (June 2012)
Q: What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
A: I hope that the downtown condo revival continues, with small independent groceries serving the residents who live there, and I hope Dayton continues to attract manufacturing and high-tech companies.
Dayton.com’s Best of Dayton 2016 winners
Oakwood Club Timeline
• 1919: A grocery is operating at 2414 Far Hills Ave., and later adds a bar and restaurant.
• 1944: Winfield Kinney buys the restaurant, transforms it from a sandwich menu to a family restaurant serving lunch and dinner.
• 1950: After three more ownership changes, the eatery becomes the Oakwood Bar and Grill.
• 1962: Ray Stewart and a partner purchase the bar, renovate it and turn it into a fine-dining restaurant known as the Oakwood Club.
• 1992: Ray Stewart dies; his son Lance becomes owner and manager, and daughter Tina Stewart Cass serves as office manager.
• 2012: Oakwood Club celebrates its 50th anniversary.
• 2017: “The O.C.” turns 55.