Alton Doody was a name to reckon with in Columbus in the 1970s and 1980s, but today it's Doody's ex-wife, Sue, and their sons, Rick and Chris, who are better known locally.
Sue Doody--Alton's first wife, she notes--taught cooking and catered out of her Upper Arlington home. When Sue and Rick decided to enter the restaurant biz in 1980, Alton found the location in German Village and bankrolled Lindey's, which for 30 years has filled a niche between elegant and casual dining for foodies, politicians, executives and celebrities.
Sue Doody says Alton helped update Lindey's interior; a Doody Company employee suggested the "power tables" at the front of the house, where local influentials like to meet, greet, see and be seen.
Alton and Sue, married for 20 years before their 1976 divorce, remained friends and business partners through the decades, even as Alton married four more times. (He was married to Sally Doody at the time of his death.) Alton, Sue says, "had a divine dissatisfaction. He'd have five or six projects going on at the same time. It was kind of confusing for those around him, but kind of stimulating, too."
Bravo | Brio
A few years after Lindey's opened, Rick Doody left for Cornell University, where he earned a master's degree in hotel and restaurant management. Brother Chris Doody went to Tulane University in New Orleans, where he earned a business degree and worked for the well-known Brennan family of restaurateurs. After returning to Columbus, the brothers launched Bravo! Cucina Italiana in 1992.
Alton Doody helped finance Bravo! and served as a director. From a single restaurant on Bethel Road, the enterprise grew to include two more brands--Brio Tuscan Grille and Bon Vie Bistro. Chris Doody says his father "had a very high level of taste in design and in space planning, and I think that was carried forward to us in our restaurants."
Rick Doody says his father sometimes served as an example of what not to do. For instance, in the early 1980s, Alton opened Investment Clothiers, selling high-quality menswear at discount prices. The venture's failure underlined the importance of store location. "He built eight or nine stores, and I'd say six to eight were at bad locations," says Rick. "My real estate people's offices have always been within 10 feet of mine."
In 2006, after the Doody brothers sold 80 percent of their company to two private equity firms, Chris stepped down as president and chief operating officer. Rick transitioned from CEO to president and chairman and remains with the company, working from Cleveland. The two, along with their executive management team, retained a 20 percent stake in the Bravo | Brio Restaurant Group (BBRG), which went public in October and has 86 locations in 29 states.
In September 2010, Chris Doody opened Piada Italian Street Food, a fast-casual eatery in Upper Arlington. He expects to open a second store in Bexley by the end of 2011.
Pet People and Personal Training
In 2000, Alton Doody helped his older daughter, Trish Elkind, and her husband, Mike, buy three Columbus stores from Pet People, a San Diego-based pet food and supply chain. Doody sold his interest in the mid-2000s, but served as a director and helped the Elkinds expand. They now operate eight stores in Columbus, two in Cleveland and one in Cincinnati, with another on the way in the Queen City.
"I would say his greatest help to us was in developing a strategic direction and helping us understand some of the financial metrics," says Trish Elkind. That, and an "incredible work ethic. He wanted all of us to work from a very young age, and he made sure that our needs were taken care of and our wants were not--in order, I think, to help us, to present us with some ambition and some drive."
Of the four Doody children, only daughter Beth Anderson did not go into business for herself. Anderson worked in commercial real estate and advertising sales before becoming a stay-at-home mother and personal trainer with Columbus Health Works. Although she excelled in her work, her father "always thought I could do more than I did," she says. Still, by the end of Alton's life, "I think he did see that I was changing lives and people's outlook on their lives with my business, and he really respected that."
In late 2010, Alton Doody returned to Columbus for treatment at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital. He spent his final days at Sue Doody's home. "It was a very special time for the family to bond back together," she says. "It was good in the sense that the children were all there together, and were totally selfless in taking care of his needs."
Reprinted from the June 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.