Jay’s Restaurant owner Amy Haverstick, who since 2009 has guided the Oregon District eatery founded by her father, led the celebration of Jay’s 40th anniversary two months ago — a remarkable achievement for a family-operated, full-service restaurant in the notoriously treacherous retail food-service industry.
Amy worked for several years in restaurants in Columbus and Chicago, and in Florida, before joining the Jay’s staff in 2002. “My dad told me, ‘If you want to work for me, you have to work someplace else first,’ so that’s what I did,” she said. She handled a variety of duties and worked in various positions at the restaurant before her father’s death in 2009.
Amy Haverstick is our Daytonian of the Week. We caught up with the 40-year-old restaurateur between motherhood and restaurant-ownership duties.
What’s your favorite spot in Dayton?
Carillon Park. Right now, my daughter is 3 years old and loves to go there for the carousel. We walk around to the different exhibits. And also Woodland Cemetery. My parents are buried at the top of the hill, so when I need to think, I go up there and look over the city.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Wine. I love to learn about wine and drink it — although I have had to put that guilty pleasure on hold for now. Right now my guilty pleasure is our (Jay’s) chocolate mousse.
What’s one word you think people would use to describe you?
Why did you decide to come back to and settle in Dayton?
I always knew I would take over the restaurant. I wasn’t planning on staying when I first came back, but my dad had a severe heart attack 6 months after I got home. So I never left. Everything happens for a reason.
How did you get involved with owning and running a restaurant?
With my father being in the business and me getting my first job at the age of 14 at St. Leonard’s in the food service department, I have never done anything else. I had a chance to open two seafood restaurants with (Columbus-based) Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, then to work alongside my father for seven years.
What was the most challenging part of that?
After my father died, I always thought I knew how to run the business, but there was so much I did not know. I am still learning every day.
How did you push through the challenge?
I didn’t have a choice in my mind. I was dedicated to succeeding. I have made some mistakes along the way but it has just made me learn what to do or not to do in the future. After losing both my parents, I learned how to be more patient. I try to not let the uncontrollable bother me anymore.
What inspires you about Dayton?
Its character and history. Also the people — I truly feel most people around here are down to earth.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
I would bring back the trapshoot convention. What a huge loss to our community. It brought a lot of revenue and tax dollars to the community.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
I hope Downtown Dayton will be thriving with housing, retail and businesses. I feel like we are on the right path.