As consumers, we may not always remember the day when we first ordered a roast beef sandwich at a fast-food eatery. Or when baked potatoes were added to a menu, or when we could ask that whipped cream top our desserts.
Little taste treats like that, however, made the national Rax chain a family stop during the ’70s and ’80s. (And don’t forget the Uncle Alligator Meal for kids accompanied by a drink inside a plastic reptile.)
But as the public’s tastes changed, so did the prominence of the Rax corporation.
Now the last remaining Rax Roast Beef restaurant in Indiana is closing. May 6 is the scheduled final day for Rax, 1106 Main St. here in Anderson. Owner Perry Knox is closing the store with the idea of pursuing a run for mayor. The restaurant will have an auction at noon Sunday, May 1, at 2418 Brown St.
Founded in Springfield, Ohio, in 1967 as Jax Roast Beef, the regional chain couldn’t keep up with the presence of Arby’s and the evolving menus of other restaurants. By the mid-1990s, bankruptcy was declared. In 2007, the Rax name was purchased from Ohio Valley Foods by Ironton, Ohio-based From Rax to Rich’s. There are still some franchises in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The current corporation is quite a bit removed from those decades when there were hundreds of restaurants in more than 30 states.
The closing of the local Rax certainly takes us back a few decades.
But the local Rax wanted us to visit a more childlike era. Patrons were transported back to the 1950s. Display cases were filled with tiny push puppets. Small pedal cars hung from the ceiling. And a colorful jukebox randomly played Ricky Nelson, the Chiffons, Buddy Holly and others — though, somehow, a Fleetwood Mac vinyl 45 found a home in the Wurlitzer.
Our downtown Rax wasn’t fancy, it was nostalgic. It wasn’t a destination dining spot; it was merely reliable and relaxing.
Many of us are right to bemoan the loss of another downtown restaurant. Many of us wonder if Rax’s passing won’t lead to others leaving the city. But like the present, the past has to move on, too.
For nostalgia-appreciating patrons, Rax was a spot to enjoy a quick meal, forget the pressures of the day and recall a more innocent past.
Now, we’ll just have to unwind and think about a less-complicated time without a good friend like Rax.