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INSIDE DISH: Hollyhock Hill sticks with recipe for nostalgia

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Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Hollyhock Hill, one of the city's oldest eateries and a prime example of the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" philosophy of restaurant management. Founded in 1928 in what then was rural Marion County, Hollyhock Hill has managed to maintain its iconic country vibe and roughly the same menu over more than eight decades.

"We've tweaked [the menu] here and there, but primarily we take care of what got us here," said co-owner Jay Snyder, 66, who started working at Hollyhock Hill as the yard boy back in 1959. After working his way up to general manager, he and his wife, Barbara, bought the restaurant in 1993 from former owner Hubert Kelso.

Hollyhock Hill remains the model of consistency. Longtime diners are likely to use the same dishware and sit at the same tables that they did decades earlier. The last major structural addition—bringing seating capacity to about 135—came in 1960 (still called "the new room" by the Snyders). Even annual sales have remained remarkably consistent, resting comfortably at about $1.39 million from 2006 to 2008.

But even Hollyhock Hill felt the pinch of the recession. Sales slipped to $1.26 million in 2009, although the restaurant remained profitable.

In the video below, Jay Snyder details the origins of the restaurant, the "secret" behind its signature fried chicken, and his thoughts on Hollyhock Hill's future as he begins to mull retirement.



 

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Hollyhock Hill
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8110 N. College Ave.
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(317) 251-2294
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www.hollyhockhill.com
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Concept: Family-style country cuisine  with a menu limited to longtime staples such as fried chicken and steaks. The landscaping and decor, largely unchanged for decades, evoke its roots in 1920s rural Marion County. 
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Founded: 1928 by V.D. Vincent. It was purchased by Hubert Kelso in 1947.
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Owners: Jay and Barbara Snyder, who began working at the restaurant in the late 1950s and bought the business in 1993.
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Employees: 45
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Sales: $1.39 million (2006); $1.39 million (2007); $1.39 million (2008); $1.26 million (2009). Profit margins over the last four years ranged in the mid-to-upper single digits.
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Seating: 135
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Goals: To maintain the overall quality of the food and dining experience; and to begin mulling secession plans.
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Good to know: Hollyhock Hill is only open for lunch on Sundays, although it will open to the public on other days if a group of 20 or more makes a luncheon reservation. The service schedule is available on its website.
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