Restaurants we miss: The Colony Club was known for big bands and great food

The Colony Club enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s as a nightclub and restaurant that brought in big-band musical acts, drawing large crowds from throughout the region.

It was located at 2801 S. Dixie Drive, on the border of Moraine and Kettering. It was sometimes said that the restaurant was in Moraine and the parking lot was in Kettering.

It was an old-school supper club with two sides — one side as a restaurant and the other for music and dancing. An iconic neon sign was at the front.

Early years

The Colony Club was founded by Jim Sullivan and opened on Dec. 28, 1956.

Sullivan had founded both Sully’s on Salem Avenue (1937) and the Pine Club on Brown Street (1947) before selling them both.

“I was missing those every night parties,” Sullivan once told the Dayton Daily News. “So I found this location on South Dixie Highway and, once again, started from the foundation on up.”

That foundation became the Colony Club.

Sullivan used to say that he never had a job in his life.

“Where can you throw a party every night for good people ... and get paid for it?” he asked.

The Colony Club was a fairly large place, with seating for 375 patrons.

When Jim Sullivan died in 1974, his daughter Sandy Wagner took over the business for a few years before selling it.

The menu

The Colony Club was know for its Chateaubriand, a tender piece of beef cut from the tenderloin, similar to filet mignon.

It was served right from the broiler, on a real hickory plank which was bordered with creamy, whipped potatoes completely edging the plank. Tiny Belgian carrots, French sliced green beans, cooked and seasoned pearl onions completed the meal. The dish was accompanied by a small metal container of piping hot Béarnaise sirloin sauce.

The club’s French onion soup was also considered one of the best in town.

Colony Club salads were considered some of the best in town, frequently making the Dayton Daily News Top 10 list.

The salad-with-Roquefort was first mixed with a bleu cheese cream-style dressing then, just before serving, a handful of chunky Roquefort is lavished on top.

Bob Weller was the head chef for over 20 years, spanning three owners.

The Don Mendenhall years

In 1978, Don Mendenhall took over the 20-year-old Colony Club, saying, “I needed something challenging to do.”

Mendenhall purchased the restaurant from Sandy Wagner. The name changed from Jim Sullivan’s Colony Club to Don Mendenhall’s Colony Club.

Mendenhall previously owned the CarpeTalk chain of 46 carpet stores.

Mendenhall was not a fan of jeans, and they were not allowed in his restaurant. In a 1983 interview, Mendenhall said, “This guy arrived with a date one night and he was wearing jeans. When he found out he couldn’t come in, his date got angry. So he left, went to a nearby discount store, shelled out 20 bucks for a pair of dress slacks and then changed into them in the car.”

Mendenhall felt the same way about rock music.

“I’d say 50 percent of the people who come here want to dance and listen to music while the other 50 percent come to talk and do some hand-holding. If the music’s too loud, they can’t even talk to each other,” he said.

For a while, Colony Club offered a special that included dinner with the rental of a limousine. A limo would pick you up at home and the chauffeur would pour a glass of champagne for you to drink on the way to the restaurant. After dinner, the limo would take you home or anywhere around town that you liked, including bar hopping.

The bands

Throughout the years, the bands and music stayed pretty much the same. Big bands played music from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.

There was musical entertainment six nights a week.

A band called Boardwalk, which included Don Reynolds, played in the early years.

From about 1960 to 1976, Bill Coburn and his quartet were the house band.

When Colburn left to go to the Black Knight supper club, Don Reynolds, now a band leader, and his six-piece band left the Black Knight and became the house band at Colony Club.

Closing time

Don Mendenhall was running the club with his son, Dana, when he decided to sell Colony Club in 1993. The new owners quickly rebranded it under the name Mindy’s.

Over the years several restaurants moved into the building, including Pucketts Fish Camp, BBQ and Co., Los 3 Amigos, El Rancho Grande, El Rio Grande Mexican restaurant and Happy Asian Mart and restaurant.

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