Restaurant man

Dobbins’ hard work,
perseverance leads to success

He and partners own many
area properties, businesses

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(February 2010) – Harry Dobbins needed a job when he dropped out of high school at 17 years old, so he took a job at Wendy’s as a fry cook. For the next 31 years, Dobbins, who later finished his education during a short two-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corp, worked hard to climb up the corporate ladder.

Harry Dobbins

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Harry Dobbins, co-owner of
the Downtowner restaurant,
enjoys the restaurant business,
which he has been involved
in for most of his life.

He spent 26 years of that Wendy’s career in Madison, Ind., and when he retired as district manager, he was ready to invest some of his hard-earned funds into his own business. Today, Dobbins, originally from Cartersville, Ga., is a successful entrepreneur and businessman who owns many properties and businesses on the hilltop and throughout the downtown area.
While he isn’t quite sure he has reached “successful” status, he knows that it takes hard work and dedication to get there. “You take what you can get when you drop out of school,” said Dobbins, 53. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up, and well, I’m still working to be successful.”
With an arm’s list of successful businesses to his credit, most people would agree that Dobbins has, indeed, gotten there.
After retiring from Wendy’s, he opened Collector’s Corner, a retail collectibles business, on the hilltop. Stacey Field’s parents owned a business next door. Field was one of Dobbin’s best customers at Collector’s Corner.
“I told him he already had bought half the stuff in there, so he might as well invest in the business,” said Dobbins.
Field said his parents admired Dobbins and thought his sense of business was excellent. “They wanted me to go into the restaurant business with him because of his expertise.”
At that point, Dobbins heard that Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, 330 Clifty Dr., was for sale. After careful consideration, Dobbins and Field bought the business together, and thus began their profitable partnership.
“Dobbins will give you the shirt off his back if you need it,” said Field. “That’s just the kind of guy he is. Honestly, there may be people out there that disagree with him on something, but I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like him. He is such a nice guy.”
Field said that recently he and Dobbins had traveled to Cincinnati to look over some restaurant equipment. While there, they met a man with a group of disadvantaged kids who were working on a shabby building. The man explained what they were doing and said the group “had big intentions with little money.”
“Dobbins bought every single one of them lunch,” said Field. “He is the kind of guy that if there is a problem, he wants to know about it so he can fix it. That’s what makes him successful.”
Together, the partners own Mr. Gatti’s, Café Dolfi, the former Roger’s Corner, Riverwest Antique Mall, a bed and breakfast, and several other downtown properties.
The partners have recently closed Roger’s Corner and plan to completely transform it into the new Shooter’s Sports Bar and Grill.
“We’ve gutted the place and are doing some major renovations, like expanding the restrooms and updating the facility,’ said Dobbins. They plan to open the family oriented restaurant by mid-spring. It will feature a full dining facility and separate bar area.
“We are excited about this,” he said. “We think it is going to be a great thing for the community.”
While he is constantly on the watch for future investments throughout the entire community, he has concentrated much of his activity in the historic downtown area.
“There’s something about downtown,” he said. “It offers a lot with tourism and the atmosphere.”
Dobbins has another partner in investment properties. He and Glen Perkins of Milton, Ky., recently purchased the former Jendy’s Pizza building at the corner of Main and Cragmont streets, and the former Local Harvest Market building on West Main Street. They also own Scottsburg, Ind.’s Top Nosh restaurant.
Carrollton, Ky., businessman Julio Terez plans to open La Rosita Mexican Restaurant and a Mexican grocery store in the former Local Harvest Market building. Terez said the restaurant and grocery will be open by early spring.
The owner of North Vernon’s Pizza Kingdom has leased the former Jendy’s building and plans to open a Pizza Kingdom there, said Dobbins.
While Dobbins refers to himself as “a restaurant man,” he does have an avid interest in antiques and collectibles. One of his favorite things to do is visit estate sales to see what treasures he can find. “It’s a great hobby, and I have a lot of fun with it,” he said.
While some downtown business owners are worried that the anticipated Milton-Madison Bridge closure in 2011 will be a huge problem for them, Dobbins isn’t fretting about it.
“We will be ready for it, and we plan to stay on top of things,” said Dobbins. “We have a good local customer base, and I’m optimistic that tourists will still find us. We plan to still be here when the bridge re-opens.”
He believes the reason he has been successful is because Madison is open and accepting. “If you do a good job, people will come,” he said. “Take care of customers, and the business will take care of itself.”

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