Pulaski Gas & Grill was closed from March 2020 to March 2021. For a whole year, the little tight-knit community of 260 residents had to do without a place to buy milk, a gallon of gas, or anyplace to go for lunch and a cup of coffee.
The inconvenience came to an end on March 1 when former Pulaskian Jerry Robison opened up Gas & Grill for his grateful community.
Local resident Cullie Kline said, “It definitely felt good when I heard they were going to open up again.
“I had eaten breakfast at Gas & Grill every morning for I don’t know how long,” he said. “We (five to eight guys) had a ‘business meeting’ at 6 a.m. and we knew we needed to be there or the others would start talking about us,” he laughed. “When the restaurant closed in March of 2020, we just didn’t meet. Last summer, we finally took turns bringing donuts or sandwiches to the Pulaski Park.
“For me (Kline is a widower) the social aspect was really important.”
Now that Gas & Grill has reopened, Kline is a regular — eating two to three meals a day in the restaurant.
Kline also appreciates being able to ride his lawnmower to town and filling it up.
“Hopefully, they’ll make it. They (Robison and family) will if anyone can. You gotta have your heart in it, or it’s not gonna work,” Kline said.
No one will argue that Robison doesn’t have his heart in it.
Robison grew up in Pulaski, and though he has lived in Moravia for several years, Robison and his sister Kim Smith revived the Pulaski Corn Show a few years ago and continue to be active in Pulaski affairs.
“This is my hometown and always will be my hometown,” Robison said. “My roots are here.”
When Robison, who owns Official Pest Control, went to spray Lisa Bish’s property a few months ago and ask her about serving as a bookkeeper for the pest control business, she told him she had a request.
She wanted him to buy Gas & Grill and suggested he hire Vickie Ornduff as manager.
Robison took Bish’s advice to heart and made an offer. “I told my wife, Kristy, ‘It’s getting close — we could get it.”
Kristy, who teaches in Moravia, answered, “That summer when I worked at Gas & Grill, I never thought I’d own it.”
“I took that as an OK and moved forward,” Robison laughed.
Their two children, Brody (17) and Jennie (14), jumped on board and seem excited about the new venture in their lives.
“When I told Brody we needed to go to Gas & Grill after we purchased it, he commented, ‘I’m going to show up and work whenever I want.’
“I asked, ‘Do you know how to cook?’ and he answered, ‘I’m about to learn!’”
Robison said both kids “jump in and help. I’m proud of them.”
Robison, Bish and Ornduff worked hard to prepare for opening day.
Robison made changes in the layout of the restaurant — adding a coffee bar and creating a second exit from behind the counter. Bish painted furniture, and Ornduff took on the responsibilities of decorating — even adding a large cutout of a Holstein cow to complete the farm décor.
New features at Gas & Grill include a lottery machine and “farm-to-table” meat from the Kyle and Abby Payne farm. “We’re basically buying from the farmer through an FDA-approved process,” Ornduff said.
Robison is grateful for the help of Barry Day in repairing the coolers; Huggins Electric for wiring; Bob Bigsby for helping with the ice cream machine; Nu-Life Cabinets in Blakesburg for the new cabinets, and the Manhatten in Centerville for the tables.
After the preparations were completed, Ornduff said opening day on March 1 was exciting. “Wray Fleming was here at 5 a.m.,” she said. “He wanted to be the first in line as we opened.”
Ornduff is currently working seven days a week. “The first week was pretty rough on me,” she said. “I cooked from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. the first day when Jerry said, ‘Vickie, take a break.’
“But I discovered we were out of lettuce; I went to get some and came back to work,” she added.
“She’s starting to pull away a little more now,” Robison commented.
All were overwhelmed the first day as customers poured into the restaurant. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Robison said. “We ran out of fries and I went to Slick’s to borrow some. We also ran out of order tickets, but CJ’s helped us out and let us use some of theirs.”
The restaurant has continued to attract many customers throughout the month of March. Some of the Robisons’ friends from Moravia have traveled to Pulaski to eat as have many from all corners of Davis County.
The menu includes 10 country fresh breakfasts, French toast, egg scrambles, and breakfast sandwiches. A wide variety of burgers (including a Barnyard Bon Fire) and sandwiches are offered in addition to a variety of fries, appetizers, and salads. The dinner menu includes fish, shrimp, broasted chicken and many sides.
Employees are Deb Frymoyer, Dani Ornduff, Terri Willcoxson, Lesa Frymooyer, Desiree Armstrong, Taden Bish, Kaden Culbertson, Marcy Glosser, Kaytee Gregson, Izayah Wood, and Landon Quinn. Vickie Ornduff is manager of the business and Lisa Bish is the office manager.
The restaurant is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday with the grill closing at 8 p.m. Sunday’s hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with the grill closing at 7 p.m.
Many Pulaski area residents are grateful for the reopening of Gas & Grill.
Rex Blackwell, a widower, who as eaten breakfast there for years, said, “It has made for a lonely year without them open.
“I’m thankful they’re open. I rely on them for eats. I don’t cook very well.
Blackwell says he is in the restaurant two to three times a day. Ornduff always tries to make sure she has a piece of pecan pie for him.
Betty Kline and husband LaVerne “eat up there a lot.”
“It’s very nice. We needed a restaurant,” Betty said. “We see a lot of people we know, and we’ve known Jerry since he was a little kid. He’ll make a go of it. He knows what he’s doing.”
Marybelle and Jack Davis say they are “pretty happy about it. We got in the habit of going there for breakfast, and we get to go again.
“They’re doing a really good job and the food is good. We were worried it might never open again,” Marybelle said.
Oh, and speaking of the big Holstein cutout in the restaurant, the Davises made their own contribution by putting an ear tag on the cow with the date of 3-1-21 — the opening date of the restaurant.