A Conversation with Richard Schubach

Having been a regular at the Friday Happy Hour at Zanzibar and more recently in the lunch crowd at Revive, I have been acquainted with Richard (Dick) Schubach for a few years. When I asked if I could interview him for my blog, I had no idea the extent to which he has participated in the transformation of the Ann Arbor food scene.

Dick is originally from western Massachusetts. He got his start in the food service business working at a Friendly’s Ice Cream location and has been working full time in the industry since the mid 1960s.

He moved to the Ann Arbor area in 1976 to open the Great Lakes Steak Company (on S. State and Ellsworth). In the early 1980s, he made his way to Alexandra’s Complete Cuisine (located where Gratzi and the Chop House are today). This was one of the only sit-down restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor at the time.

From there, Dick partnered with friends to open the Southside Grill, (located at the intersection of Packard and State, where the Packard Pub is currently), a restaurant offering diner fare. In the mid 1980s, Dick returned to the Main Street restaurant scene, opening 328 South Main, another sit-down restaurant, serving creative American cuisine with a nice wine list (located where the Prickly Pear is currently).

In 1986, Dick was approached by Bill Martin (former Athletic Director of the University of Michigan) to develop and run Casey’s Tavern. When he left Casey’s Tavern in 1992, he joined with his two current business partners to create Red Hawk. This bar, located adjacent to the University of Michigan’s Central Campus, continues to serve as one of the primary eateries that caters to a primarily non-student clientele in the neighborhood.

Dick and his partners opened and ran the previously mentioned Zanzibar (located where Sava’s is currently) from 1996-2009. Zanzibar had a menu that seemed more oriented toward a non-student clientele as well, often featuring items that were more exotic than even those on the menu at Red Hawk. That being said, it was the bar that always appeared to be a great draw, particularly during Happy Hour.

It was a sad day when Zanzibar closed at the end of Art Fair in 2009. A number of my colleagues and I wondered where the grown-ups would go to eat. We had little to fear, because just a few months later (October 2009), Dick and his partners from Red Hawk (and Zanzibar) opened Revive and Replenish on East University Street (the opposite corner of Central Campus from Red Hawk).

Dick identified Revive as an atypical café, since it has no open burners and no gas. The menu has been dictated by the limitations of the space. Dick also mentioned that he and his partners thought that coffee would be the primary draw with food being secondary. In reality, the opposite has occurred. Revive has a number of grab and go items that are pre-made and in their refrigerated cases, as well as made-to-order salads and sandwiches.

More than 2/3rds of the total sales come from the food. It is easy to understand why. Dick told me that they are trying to do what he has always tried, to create the highest quality product for the size of the portion and price that they charge. They appear to have hit the sweet spot for which they were aiming, since Revive is typically a very busy place during lunchtime.

My personal favorite item on their menu is the flatbread with Swiss cheese, avocado and tomato (adding the optional bacon). The exterior of the bread is crispy from its time on the Panini press and the interior has a slightly gooey texture from the melted cheese. The flavor of the cheese blends well with the savory bacon and the freshness of the sliced tomato and avocado. While similar to a regular grilled cheese sandwich, it is so much more.
It is easy to see how Dick has made his mark at Revive. All of the staff there are friendly and go out of their way to make sure that customers are satisfied. I have personally had them make items that are not on the menu for my daughters’ toddler appetites.

I concluded my conversation with Dick by asking him why he got started in the food service business and what has kept him in it for so long. He responded that, a lot of people get into the food business by default. It is a career path that doesn’t require a lot of education to begin, but at the outset it is possible to make decent money. As for how he explains his longevity, he said, “The older you get, working with young people keeps you feeling young.”

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