Jake and Dorothy’s: A 67-year legacy served one delicious plate at a time

Cafe marks anniversary with $6.95 sirloin special all day Friday

Advertisement
Kerry Roach grew up inside Jake & Dorothy's when her parents owned the cafe. She has owned it since 1977. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection

By BRAD KEITH

TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL

STEPHENVILLE  (June 11, 2015) — You can take Jake and Dorothy’s Cafe out of 1948, but you can’t take 1948 out of Jake and Dorothy’s Cafe.

Nostalgia from the year the cafe was established are what sets the family-friendly, cafe-style restaurant in downtown Stephenville apart from so many others.

There is still the original ‘Est. 1948’ sign above the doorway to the kitchen, and the same barstools have warmed backsides for more than six decades as patrons have shared stories while scarfing down fresh coffee and scrumptious homestyle meals.

BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com
BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com

It was June 12, 1948, when Jake and Dorothy Roach first opened the doors of their new cafe to the public. Since that time, millions – literally – of chicken fried steaks and hundreds of thousands of burgers, sirloins, catfish and other menu favorites have been served.

The prices have changed, and there is now a light dining menu to appease the healthy-eating customers. But the atmosphere, friendly service and and mouth-watering platters of food still take you back to the smells and tastes of yesteryear.

Just the way Kerry Roach likes it.

It’s a history that was almost lost. Because Kerry, a standout athlete and scholar, wanted to study pharmacy.

It’s a good thing Daddy had other plans.

Jake and Dorothy Roach in front of their cafe. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection
Jake and Dorothy Roach in front of their cafe. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection

“I wanted to go to pharmacy school and he didn’t want me to because I was going to go out of state,” said Kerry Roach, as she sipped a glass of iced tea and recounted some of the many memories made the past 67 years. “He told me, ‘No, you need to do this. I’ll teach you all that I know as long as I’m living,’ and he did.”

The first thing Kerry had to do was get the restaurant back in the family.

Jake Roach had a bad heart and sold the business in 1971 before undergoing bypass surgery in 1972. Not wanting to lose the family legacy, Kerry managed to buy back the restaurant in 1977 and has run it for the past 38 years.

Kerry, 62, hasn’t slowed much through the years. She still manages evening shifts and pokes her head in during the day to see her “family.”

Kerry Roach goes through photos as she recalls memories from the past 67 years. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com
Kerry Roach goes through photos as she recalls memories from the past 67 years. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com

Because years after the passing of her entrepreneurial parents, family – and, of course, food – is still what Jake and Dorothy’s is all about.

“I come in here during the day and I expect to see smiling happy faces,” said Roach of her simple expectations. “I want to see happy employees and I want to see happy customers. You become close to your good customers and your employees, and they really do become your family.”

Kerry literally grew up in the cafe through the 1950s and 1960s. She even worked at the restaurant, earning a whopping 50 cents an hour when she started out. There have been economic ups and downs and changes in food prices through the years, but her passions have remained the same.

“I love people, especially kids. I love helping kids any way I can,” said Roach, whose eyes light up anytime the subject turns to high school football or little league baseball. “I love sponsoring the little baseball teams and being a part of the booster clubs and just doing what I can to help people help kids.”

How could she not? Her parents may have been the biggest sports fans in town back in their day.

“Momma and Daddy were always dressing up and going to a football game, either SMU, TCU or Baylor,” she recalls. “That, and Daddy loved high school football. That’s what I was raised on.”

Jake and Dorothy Roach dressed up for a football game, likely at SMU, TCU or Baylor, says their daughter, Kerry Roach. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection
Jake and Dorothy Roach dressed up for a football game, likely at SMU, TCU or Baylor, says their daughter, Kerry Roach. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection

Those aren’t just words. The walls of the back room – now the non-smoking portion of the cafe – of Jake and Dorothy’s are lined with photos, banners, cut out newspaper articles and more highlighting the five state football titles won by Stephenville High School. She’s already pointed out to new head coach Greg Winder that she has plenty of wall space remaining.

Roach herself was quite the athlete back in the day, traveling the country and even trying out for the Olympics as a track and field star. Among her favorite memories are her Honeybee basketball team “breaking in” first-year head coach Mike Copeland, who has now coached 40 years in Stephenville and is a member of the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Honor.

“I guess we broke him in pretty good, because he’s had a great career,” said a beaming Roach of the legendary Copeland.

Kerry Roach being inducted into the Stephenville High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. || Courtesy ELLEN SKIPPER
Kerry Roach being inducted into the Stephenville High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. || Courtesy ELLEN SKIPPER

Yes, Roach loves her sports, and she loves traveling and hearing good music. But the cafe, and yesteryear, are where her heart truly lies.

“I don’t ever want to change too much because this place is historical I think,” said Roach. “I have to make updates, I have to think and get creative and sometimes patch and fix up things a bit. We did remodels in 2004 and 2008. We gutted the kitchen and it’s all stainless steel and easily cleanable now, but really, a lot of this place is the same as it was in 1948, and that’s how I want it to stay.”

Roach took pause from the interview to greet and hug Hadley Dorris, 6, and her older brother, Corbin Powell, 8. Their family eats regularly at the cafe.

“I love that people bring their kids and grandkids in here and I hope they keep bringing them,” she said. “If no kids are eating here, then when we’re all gone, who’s going to eat at Jake and Dorothy’s?”

Kerry Roach greets Hadley Dorris, 6, and her brother, Corbin Powell, 8, at the cafe Thursday evening. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com
Kerry Roach greets Hadley Dorris, 6, and her brother, Corbin Powell, 8, at the cafe Thursday evening. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com

But while kids light up the eyes, it’s the old-time regulars, some of whom ate at Jake and Dorothy’s the day the doors opened 67 years ago, who warm her heart.

Bill Riggs, 80, is just such a customer. He has bypass surgery coming up soon, and Roach is planning to return from a trip just in time to be there for her old friend.

“He loves our Thousand Island dressing, just loves it,” Roach said. “We make our own right here, so I’m always giving him a big cup of it. We take care of him, he’s like family.”

Riggs has dined with hundreds of friends, family and strangers at Jake and Dorothy’s through the years, and doesn’t hesitate when picking his favorite dish at his favorite cafe.

“They’ve always had the best chicken fried steak,” says Riggs. “And it’s still great today.”

Dorothy Roach works the cash register for two pleased customers decades ago. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection
Dorothy Roach works the cash register for two pleased customers decades ago. || Courtesy KERRY ROACH collection
Kerry Roach stands behind the register to greet an old friend and customer, Bill Riggs, and one of her employees, Sonja Lebo. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com
Kerry Roach stands behind the register to greet an old friend and customer, Bill Riggs, and one of her employees, Sonja Lebo. || BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com

And it’s not just the chicken fried steak. It’s the building and it’s history. It’s the sounds, sights, smells and tastes that have satisfied millions of customers through the years.

But most of all, it’s the people, the ones Kerry Roach calls family.

It’s a 67-year legacy, served one hot plate at a time.


Jake & Dorothy’s timeline:

1948 – Established June 12, 1948

1960 – Purchased old goodyear lot for additional parking

1971 – Jake Roach sells the cafe due to health reasons

1977 – On June 27, 1977, Kerry buys the restaurant, returning it to the Roach family

1982 – Jake Roach passes away

1988 – 40th anniversary

1997 – Dorothy Roach passes away

1998 – 50th anniversary

2004 – Remodel

2008 – Remodel

2008 – 60th anniversary

Modern photos by BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com, older photos courtesy KERRY ROACH collection:

J&D original layout

J&D Original entrance

J&D old menu

J&D Little Kerry

J&D Kerry Roach on barstool

J&D Jake and Dorothy Roach 01

J&D Jake and Dorothy 03

J&D barstools

1 Comment

Leave a Reply