On entering the doors of what was then the original Scotty’s Brewhouse, a sign reads on top of the wall behind the bar counter, “Never forget your ROOTS.”
“The whole concept was created really revolving around this concept of me coming back to my hometown,” said Scott Wise, now the founder and partner of Roots Burger Bar.
After a soft opening earlier this week, the new restaurant opened Thursday for customers to try out what the Yorktown native described as “an all-American diner with a twist.”
“Anything I’ve ever done, I’ve tried to keep it very simple — not take life or my food too seriously; have fun with it, but yet give it a little bit of an edge of uniqueness, try to do things a little differently,” Wise said.
Wise, who said he feels “woven into the fabric of the community,” said he was going back to doing one restaurant and was going to be there three days a week working on the floor.
“To me, it excites me because it takes me back to exactly what I did and what I loved when I started back in 1996,” he said.
A smaller menu than what Scotty’s had, Roots will primarily serve around 10 different burgers that he worked with a local chef to help create alongside appetizers like wings, tater tots and salads. The restaurant will also have a popcorn machine and a free self-serve ice creams for kids.
“I didn’t want to do a menu the size of what I had done previously,” Wise said. “I wanted to really try to hone in and be really great at a burger concept that had these smashed burgers that come out really fast from the kitchen.”
Apart from keeping prices “economical” while maintaining quality, he said Roots will bring back Scotty’s Mug Club where people will be able to purchase and etch their names on the side of the mug to use whenever they come in. The decor of the restaurant will remain the same as Scotty’s.
Phil Wills from the then Dill Street Bar & Grill will be the general manager at the new restaurant. Wise said he worked as a dishwasher for Wills when he was a freshman at Ball State and years later Wills worked for him at Scotty’s.
He said Wills along with others came up to him and proposed the idea of working together on a new restaurant.
“I couldn’t be more excited to work with Phil. In this business you’ve got to have a good relationship,” Wise said. “Because I’ve known Phil now for probably 30 years … it couldn’t be a better partnership for us to be working together again.”
Wills said he felt good about coming back to the Village in his new role and has always enjoyed coming down to the Village.
“The Village has always been a great place to do business from my aspect,” Wills said. “It’s got a different set of problems that other places in Muncie don’t have, but other places have a different set of problems the Village doesn’t. So, it is how you look at it.”
He said solving the problems in the Village is something everybody needs to get involved in, working with the city and the university in the process.
From recent articles and his email correspondence with President Geoffrey Mearns, Wise said the university is “taking an active interest in the Village and saying ‘We want to really grow into the Village. We want the university to be a part of it.’”
“I think for a long time there was a division [between Ball State and the Village],” he said. “It wasn’t a cruel division; there wasn’t an animosity. It was kind of like, ‘You stay on that side of the street and we’ll stay on this side, and everybody plays nice in the sandbox.’”
Wise said if Ball State gets behind a proposal where they “intertwine campus and university and come into the Village,” and understand “they need all kinds of businesses to make it an amenity for students to come to the university,” it is going to “mean a great thing for the Village, the university and Muncie.”
He said he believes competition makes business better and stronger, prices competitive, service better and improves value for the customer.
“In my opinion business begets business,” Wise said. “I’ve always believed there’s enough pie for everybody to eat. No one needs to hog all the pie and say I’m in business to put other people out of business.”
Wise said he’s excited about opening the restaurant in the middle of summer because “it gives us time to really get everything locked and loaded for when school comes back in.”
“I’m excited about what’s going to happen and I’m going to play a small part,” he said.
Contact Rohith Rao with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @RaoReports.