HUNTINGTON — Sid Torlone put 36 years of his life into G.D. Ritzy's, a 1950s-themed restaurant located on Hal Greer Boulevard in Huntington.
Last week, Torlone announced he had sold the iconic establishment to Jason Webb, owner of Southside Sliders, a food truck business in town.
"I've been general manager for 36 years and the owner for 26 years," Torlone said. "It's a bittersweet thing for me. I have so many wonderful memories."
Last year, Torlone suffered an attack by way of an armed robbery from an employee, but he recovered.
"It's time for me to move on, and I am so excited that Jason Webb will be the new owner," Torlone said.
Webb says he is not changing anything, including the look of the restaurant or its menu.
"I have already had many loyal customers tell me they love this place just the way it is, so we plan on keeping it that way," he said. "I plan to paint the place and put some of my memorabilia up, but that's about it. It's just an honor to take over such an iconic establishment from such an iconic man in Sid Torlone."
In addition to nostalgia, Torlone says the food at G.D. Ritzy's is special, too.
"Our hamburgers are thin on the edges and thicker in the middle. It gives them a different flavor and taste with crispy edges," Torlone said. "That's how they did them back in the '50s, so that's how we stick to that. Over the years we've added a little more variety to the menu. We now have chicken quesadillas and a Philly steak sandwich."
Other menu items include a Mushroom Swiss Burger and The Big Bopper, a fried bologna sandwich. Ritzy's also continues to serve up 16 flavors of ice cream ranging from chocolate to amaretto as well as milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. Sundae toppings include strawberry, marshmallow creme and caramel. Any soft drink can be flavored with cherry or vanilla.
"We also have seven-way chili, which is a big item," Torlone said. "It has chili, spaghetti, beans, onions, tomato, peppers and cheese. It's a big item with a lot of food."
G.D. Ritzy's was a Columbus, Ohio-based chain of 1950s-themed restaurants established in 1980 when a number of Wendy's franchisees left over a disagreement in management.
At its peak, Ritzy's were found throughout much of the East Coast and Midwest. Today only a few Ritzy's locations remain, with the one at 1335 Hal Greer Blvd. in Huntington being the oldest one still standing.
"I bought it from the two Columbus doctors that originally owned it," Torlone said.
The ownership change happened after Torlone approached his cousin, Michael Misiti, a local CPA with The Fyffe Jones Group AC in Huntington.
"Earlier this year Sid reached out to me to see if I could search within my professional and social circles to see if anyone would be interested in buying the business from him," Misiti said.
Misiti said every year the CPA firm would celebrate the end of tax season by having a special luncheon for staff.
"This year we asked Southside Sliders' food truck to come on-site and cater our end-of-tax-season lunch for us," he said. "Our firm did not have a prior relationship with Southside Sliders' owner, Jason Webb. We just thought it would be cool to have a food truck here to celebrate several months of hard work."
Misiti said after meeting Webb, along with the quality of the food and service, he and his staff thought it would be a perfect fit for him to explore taking over G.D. Ritzy's.
"Shortly thereafter we touched base with Jason to see if he would be interested in exploring the option," he said.
Torlone and Webb knew each other from around town, specifically from the YMCA basketball courts, so the two of them already had a history together and a good relationship.
"After several months of work, we finally were able to close the deal on Aug. 1, allowing for a new generation of leadership at Huntington's G.D. Ritzy's," Misiti said.
Webb says he wants to grow the business and is excited about the development taking place along Hal Greer Boulevard and downtown Huntington.
"We anticipate much more traffic, and I also want to grow the delivery side of the business as well," he said.
Webb says he has had the Southside Sliders food truck business for the past four years.
"This sale will not have any effect on the Southside Sliders business," he said. "The food truck and catering service, specializing in unique sliders and tots, will continue serving the local Tri-State area here in Huntington."
Webb says he also plans to increase the social media presence of G.D. Ritzy's.
"We want to be more active on G.D. Ritzy's Facebook page and maybe even create a website," he said.
G.D. Ritzy's is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Cash and most major credit cards are accepted. For carry-out orders or more information, call 304-523-7019.
For information about Southside Sliders, visit its website at www.southsidesliders.com, find them on Facebook or call 304-417-3782.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.