In my childhood, Ritzy's had four locations in Lexington, Kentucky. When they all closed in the early '90s, the buildings were quickly repurposed. One became a Rally's, the first Rally's I had seen with an indoor seating area. They even kept the railings with the "R" logo glass in the interior. The building was eventually demolished and a Chick-Fil-A was constructed in its place. Another Lexington Ritzy's was either demolished or heavily renovated and is now home to a dry cleaner. One more, I don't think is still standing, but I haven't been able to find definitive information on its original location, but I'm fairly sure it was located somewhere on Richmond Road. If any past or present Lexingtonians reading this can help me narrow down its location, please let me know. Near as I can tell, there is only one Ritzy's building in Lexington still standing in more or less its original form. Located at the 3110 Pimlico Parkway, the building served as an Arby's for many years, the only fast food in the area. The Arby's recently closed, when a new McDonald's opened up next door. As of the writing of this article, the property is listed as being up for lease. Having stayed with family in Lexington the night previous, I stopped by for some pictures and light snooping on my way out of town. I wish I could have gone inside it for some interior pictures, but the original layout seemed pretty well intact, even the elevated dining area was still there. By this point, it had been over 36 hours since I had last eaten at Ritzy's, and I was ready for one last Ritzy's meal, so the Festiva and I moved on.
|Aside from the big lighted sign on the wall, the exterior of the building is fairly unmodified.|
|Note the bike rack. If I had a Ritzy's within biking distance when I was a kid, I would have been soooooo happy.|
|The original drive thru sign frames are even still in place.|
Location: G.D. Ritzy's, 1335 Hal Greer Boulevard, Huntington, West Virginia
Order: Double Ritz with cheese, fries, cole slaw, Diet Mountain Dew
My next stop was the final operational Ritzy's that I had yet to visit on this trip, located just over the West Virginia state line in Huntington. I had messaged the Facebook pages of all the Ritzy's I was planning to visit, and Sid, the owner of the Huntington location told me to ask for him when I arrived at his place. I did just that, and after I received my order, he was nice enough to sit with me as I ate and tell me stories and tidbits about his experience as a Ritzy's franchisee. He's been there since nearly the very beginning, opening in 1983. He told me all his children had worked there at some point, and that his was the oldest operating Ritzy's location. The Huntington Ritzy's is the only location that still sports an early-style lighted sign with the G.D. Ritzy mascot on it, and Sid said that he elected to keep it when later style Ritzy's signage became available, preferring the style of the mascot sign. I think I do too. Sid seemed as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. He even promised to order and send me a free Ritzy's T-shirt in my size. He also took me on a tour of the back of the restaurant, showing me storage and food prep areas as well as a tiny manager's office. I had always been impressed with the design of G.D. Ritzy's buildings' and their efficient use of space, (I'm fond of Ford Festivas for similar reasons.) but seeing the back half of the building only served to increase my appreciation. A building smaller than a standard Waffle House was designed to function not only as a restaurant with a full kitchen, drive thru, seating, order counter, and a pair of public bathrooms, but also functioned as a small ice cream production facility, making 16 flavors of ice cream in-house. Despite all this, no portion of the building ever feels cramped. It feels bigger on the inside than the outside. It's the T.A.R.D.I.S. of burger joints. The architecture of a G.D. Ritzy's is an architectural marvel of both form and function, making every square inch of real estate count, while wearing classic Art-Deco lines.
|Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountians, Huntington G.D. Ritzy's|
|Just look at that stylish chap! Don't you want to buy a chili dog and some ice cream from him?|
|Sorry Corey. I'm totally keeping these for my collection. I'm afraid you'll have to accept actual money in exchange for ice cream.|
If you find yourself anywhere near one of the three, soon to be four, cities where G.D. Ritzy's has a presence, do yourself a favor and stop in for a meal and/or some ice cream. I firmly believe that a better fast-casual restaurant concept does not exist, and who doesn't love a good comeback story? I have high hopes that the Webbs and their franchisees will have a bright future in the restaurant business. I know that I'll continue to be a loyal customer as long as I'm within some semblance of a reasonable distance.