Dynasty Of Dining

After 40 years and four hurricanes, the Replogle family is still cooking up a storm.

In 1948, when Jake Replogle arrived in Vero Beach to honeymoon at the Driftwood Inn, he never imagined that one day he would be managing the restaurant next door—the historic Ocean Grill. But, 17 years later, in June 1965, he returned to Vero Beach as a successful restaurateur from Milwaukee and negotiated a 50-year lease with the Waldo Sexton family, who owned the property. So began the Grill’s Replogle regime, which has survived 40 years, four generations, four hurricanes and two deadly nor’easters.

First of the generations was Jake’s mother, Louise, who had enough faith in her only son to provide the seed money that financed his restaurant career in Milwaukee. Later, from her home on Florida’s west coast, she kept the daily food records for the Ocean Grill, a time-consuming but important job involving a clear head and a dependable U.S. mail system.

Jake, the second generation, brought the Grill from an annual gross of $300,000 in 1965 to around $5 million four decades later. His food experience included a stint in the Navy running dining halls for bachelor officers’ quarters, four years managing the Midway Airport restaurant in Chicago (before O’Hare was developed), and 12 years running the food service for Marquette University in Milwaukee, during which time he purchased a small suburban restaurant. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. he oversaw the preparation of 15,000 meals for college students; then from 5:30 until 10 p.m. he fed a packed clientele in his 95-seat steak house.

When Jake took over the Grill’s management there were no credit cards, no computers, not even a cash register. There was cash, however. Eddie Kistler, a gentleman accountant and genius with numbers, sat before a massive desk in the lobby where he accepted the waitresses’ hand-written checks, re-added them in his head, collected the cash and made the change. He never made a mistake and every penny balanced at the end of the night. Who needed a computer?

Read the entire article in the March 2006 issue