Famous for hometown restaurant serves as an example.
If you want to rattle David Van Noy, you’re going to need more than a global pandemic. “I never know what tomorrow will bring,” says Van Noy with a smile, throwing up his hands. “All we have is today, and today we’re doing okay. That’s enough and I’m grateful.”
Yes, restaurants everywhere are suddenly facing the hardest of hard times. Dining rooms have been deserted as owners part with employees and try to figure out other ways to survive. There’s a lot of grim news out there, but David Van Noy refuses to let it get to him.
“I really do think God is in control and hasn’t run out of miracles. So all I have to do is just keep my eyes where they need to be, focused on my family and my work. That’s what we all should be focused on.”
Van Noy is naturally positive. He manages to stay calm and take things one day at a time but is by no means taking it easy. Like his brother Mike across the street at Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse, David is trying harder than ever and concentrating on takeout service that’s reshaped his restaurant operation.
“I’ve turned this dining room right off the kitchen into a carryout hub,” explains Van Noy as he straightens to-go bags on a table near the door. “I’ve really always wanted to do that and the current situation kind of forced me into it.” How’s that for seeing the glass half full?
Everything on RC’s classic homestyle menu is available for pick up right out front, from the fried catfish, pork tenderloin and famous fried chicken to the ridiculously decadent cinnamon rolls. Van Noy is now relying on a lean team of family and some of the hardest working employees he’s ever had. “My people are putting up a fight. We’re giving it everything we’ve got.”
The kitchen is sizzling, the phones are ringing and employees are scribbling down orders. RC’s Gift Cards and the Gift Card Challenge are also heating up as loyal customers come knocking like neighbors.
“We’ve had customers come in here with tears in their eyes. They order more than they need and leave 50% tips. They say ‘You guys hang in there, we’re pulling for you. We want you to make it. You’ve got to make it. We love your food.”
But there’s more going on here than a love of food that sticks to your ribs and leaves you feeling right with the world. There’s the love of a business with a reputation that now brings as much comfort as the food itself and makes you want to come to the rescue. Does Fishtech Group around the corner really need breakfast for 80 people? Probably not, but RC’s does and Van Noy can’t thank his Fishtech friends enough for their impromptu order.
“God bless them, all of them. Us, our customers, our neighborhood — we’re family and we need each other. People are coming home to us in Martin City to make sure we’re ok. The world changes, but you know RC’s is a rock. It’s always here.”
RC’s Restaurant has been cooking in its current location for nearly 40 years. The large, custom-built landmark anchors the heart of Martin City on 135th Street. The pool tables, video games, and dartboards upstairs have gone dark for now as Van Noy turns his high energy to new priorities coming to light, and frames it all with a positive perspective.
“I really look at this as a cleansing of some kind. All of the reshuffling has brought so many things to my attention that need attention. Now that we’re scaled back to takeout service, I’m taking my kitchen apart to clean and adjust things that I’ve been meaning to get to. Water lines need work. I’ll get to those today.”
This is how the Van Noys are. You’ll rarely catch the Martin City restaurant icons kicking back and taking a breather. Everywhere David looks he sees something that needs to be done and jumps on it with his tireless devotion to making everything better. “Service is in our blood. It’s just who we are and we can’t turn it off.”
David and Mike began their restaurant rise as teenagers, working day and night helping their pioneering father, R.C. Van Noy, build the business that bears his name. David says it’s all he’s ever known and you can tell his pride grows stronger as time passes.
“I’ve been at this for 47 years. My father left a legacy that used to give us a swagger when we were younger, but now we’re simply humbled by it all and grateful. We’ve broken every law in business to stay in business. I mean, Mike and I never went to college. Our father was our teacher and we learned by his example.”
Now David finds himself the example, offering unwavering optimism and persistence to a community caught off guard and left shaken by a global crisis. If you’re feeling anxious, consider the advice he’s following these days.
“My father would say ‘Stop obsessing over the news. Stop living in fear, that’s not who we are. Stop thinking so much and go do something. Make something better. Fix something.’ And that’s what I’m doing now.”
David recalls a time in the 1970s when that advice first pointed him in the right direction. “I was at the restaurant on a Saturday night and a tornado was threatening Martin City. I called my Dad and said, ‘What should I do here? There are tornado warnings on TV and it’s scaring everyone to death.’ He replied, ‘Turn off the TV. Son, if it’s time for you to go then it’s your time. Otherwise, just hang in there.’ So the whole restaurant evacuated. Many of those people actually fled right into the path of the tornado as it headed just north of here. I stayed put working and watched the sun come out.”
David says that story has always stayed with him. Maybe the rest of us should think about it too. Only good things can come if we all hang in there. Turning off the TV from time to time is probably a good idea too. Thanks for the advice David, and for helping us stay grounded and well-fed when it really counts. Raymond Charles Van Noy would surely be proud of RC’s.
Many local restaurants are getting creative with service and menu specials. The best way to stay in the loop is to connect through social media and keep showing your support for Jess & Jim’s, RC’s Restaurant, Martin City Brewing Company, Jack Stack Barbecue, Martin City Coffee, Margarita’s South and all other local restaurants. And don’t forget to take the Gift Card Challenge!