GREENVILLE — Vint’s Restaurant on Sweitzer Street in Greenville is celebrating 50 years in business this year.
In fact, the exact anniversary date is March 5.
Vint’s was initially a franchise owned by Flint’s, according to owner John Riegle, who took over sole ownership 20 years ago. The first owner was Vince Buscher who was joined by son Bill.
“I was part-owner with them after I turned 21,” said Riegle. “I worked at Vint’s 13 years and left and worked for other fast-food chains, including McDonald’s Hardees’ and Ponderosa.
But, after awhile that didn’t pan out.
“McDonald’s wanted me to move to Dayton, so we moved to Pitsburg [still their residence], because it was the closest place as any,” he said. “The hours were tough. I was general manager. I worked for a brief time for Dick Winston, who had three McDonald’s franchises.”
Twenty years later, he decided to return to Vint’s.
“I enjoy this,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do. Ketchup is in my blood.”
The restaurant, it is believed, to be just as popular as it was in the early days.
However, John said he has added some new items to the menu, including mashed potatoes and green beans. He also added spaghetti, pulled barbecue pork and brought chili back again after what he called “re-tuning the recipe.”
“Some people were getting tired of fries and cole slaw,” he said. “We have brought in our own pies and our daughter, Mandy, makes our cheesecakes.”
Their most popular item, he said, is their fried chicken dinners, followed by their fried tenderloin and then the Dandy Boy.
“Our fish has been up quite a bite in sales,” he added.
Its name changed to Vint’s in the early 1970s.
“We had to get the ‘Fl’ [Flint’s] off the sign and Carl Henry and Vince [Buscher] said a big ‘V’ would look good there,” Riegle recalled. “In 1992, we changed the original sign after they had to widen the highway here.”
It’s truly been a family business for the Riegles. Wife Phyllis has been working there ever since she stopped her full-time job. Also working there are their daughter, Mandy Swisshelm; her husband, Dave; and grandson Tanner Swisshelm.
Phyllis worked in social services at the Brethren Retirement Community when it was known as the Brethren Home from 1982-98, and then came to work for Vint’s.
The Riegles’ son, Curtis, worked at Vint’s in high school, but is now serving with the U.S. Air Force in Anchorage, Alaska.
“He works on big cargo planes,” John said of his son. “He works on communication, navigation and the defense system on C-5s in electrical engineering.”
And, even their other daughter, Billie Jo, who is married to Isaac Riegle [no relation] of Arcanum had worked there.
John thinks his own children developed a maturity level by working in the family business. It builds up their confidence.
“We’re very proud of all of our kids,” he said.
Another faithful employee was Phyllis’ mother, Barb Melling, until she passed away a number of years ago.
“Mom ran circles around our high school help,” Phyllis said.
John and Phyllis met at Vint’s, after she began working there, and their son, Curtis, met his wife, the former Mandy Kingrey of Versailles, who also worked there.
“John proposed to be at the shake machine, after about a year and a half,” said Phyllis. “It was toward the end of an evening and we were the only ones in here. He had put my name on his checkbook and had me open the box and there was a diamond inside it.”
The couple was married Dec. 20, 1975, and also have seven grandchildren, in addition to their own three children.
John, son of Ruth Riegle Henry and the late William Riegle, is a 1971 graduate of Greenville High School (GHS), and Phyllis, daughter of Bob Melling and the late Barb Melling, graduated from GHS in 1975.
John loves to cook, and even does all of it at home, he said.
Asked if there were ever any celebrities, who has eaten at Vint’s.
“[NASCAR’s] Mark Martin’s pit crew stopped in here to eat, but without him [Martin] because he had to go to Dayton,” John said. “We’ve really had some nice military people come here. They see me wearing an Air Force pin that was given to me for being a parent. I met a high-ranking officer in here.”
Bill Buscher, Riegle noted, still owns the building.
“Vint’s is well-known,” John said. “Everywhere I go, people know about Vint’s when I mention it. Some people out-of-state came in and ordered a lot of our chicken and took it back to Montana.”
John would like to see his children and grandchildren continue the business for many years to come.
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