The Ivy Lounge was opened by brothers Art and Barney Rivers after they converted their Riverdale Ice Co. into the restaurant in 1950. The business had several other owners over the years.
The dinner menu leaned heavily to beef and seafood, but there were also chicken, pork chops and ribs. A former Dayton Daily News reporter said the ribs were the best thing on the menu.
Dinner entrees included bread, salad and a potato.
Pie was the thing for dessert. Inez Lawson, the mother of owner Jim Lawson, had quite the reputation as a pie maker. She baked whatever she felt like, so there was no telling when her specialty, peanut butter pie, would be available.
She baked all of her pies at home and brought them to the restaurant. She made three in the morning for the lunchtime crowd and three in the afternoon for the evening business.
Inglenook was the house wine.
After 1985, Chef David Glynn took over at the restaurant. He was considered a chef in love with innovation. He was known for leaving no stone unturned in effort to put his mark on each dish.
There was a printed menu, but also a blackboard with the daily specials.
Dayton Daily News restaurant reporter Ann Heller called the menu eclectic in her 1986 review.
“Where else, on any given night, would the evening specials include blackened prime rib, Cajun etouffee, chargrilled tuna, pan-fried rainbow trout, stuffed filet mignon -- on top of a regular menu that offers pasta with white clam sauce, crab-stuffed shrimp, Texas and Oriental ribs, pork schnitzel, turkey Dijonnaise and old-fashioned pan-friend chicken. Some might call it a schizophrenic menu; I’ll call it eclectic,” she wrote.
After a family meal on Mother’s Day family one year, Lawson asked his father-in-law, Rick Wolf, to bake some of his cheesecakes they had enjoyed for the restaurant.
Before long, Wolf was suppling cheesecakes to several local restaurants.
His new business was called The Great American Cheesecake Co. It was run out of a back corner of a dining room at the Ivy Lounge. Later he moved to his own building in West Milton. The business expanded again and his cheesecakes were sold in local grocery stores.
One year, Wolf tried to make the Guinness Book of World Records by producing a 4,000 pound cheesecake on the Forth of July.
The Ivy Lounge sponsored many sports teams, including a top notch men’s fast-pitch softball team for many years.
In 1979, they won the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) state Class A championship and were runner-up in the regionals.
Coach/pitcher Pete Seipple was known for his rising and dipping fastball that had been clocked at 103 mph.
Change in owners
Ivy Lounge had many owners through the years.
John and Elizabeth Hollo were the owners and operators of the Ivy Lounge from 1962 through 1968.
James and then his son, Jim Lawson, owned it from 1972 through 1985. When James Lawson took over, he did extensive remodeling, enlarged the dining capacity from 62 to 180. Jim took over as owner in 1977.
Former Ohio senator Tom Fries purchased the Ivy Lounge in 1985. He also owned several G.D. Ritzy restaurants. He bought the Ivy from Jim Lawson.
Fries put $120,000 in improvements into the 35-year-old Ivy Lounge. He opened up the place, extending and opening up the dining room. The once dark and dull atmosphere was lightened up with massive paintings and unflattering overhead lights.
During Fries’ brief ownership it was also known as the Ivy Tavern and The Riverdale Ivy.
The Ivy Lounge was sold by Fries after one year, to a group of several investors.
The name was changed to The Ivy. David Glynn was brought on as general manager and executive chef. He was hired away from the Holiday Inn of Englewood.
The investor group, a corporation, was headed by the president, David Barhorst, an employee of NCR. Ross Scott of Dayton Cash Register is vice president. Other included Ken Marchal of NCR and Gary Evans, owner of Timothy’s Cafe on Brown Street.
In 2006, the ownership group closed the doors to the public and turned The Ivy into a private social and athletic club.