Golden Ox co-owner Steve Greer is ready to un-retire

Steve Greer, the former co-owner of the iconic Golden Ox restaurant in the West Bottoms, has been retired for only four months, but he’s already bored and looking for a new job.

“I’ve painted every room in our house,” Greer says. “I’ve run out of rooms to paint. And my wife tells me I have to get back to work.”

A veteran of the legendary Gilbert/Robinson restaurant chain for more than two decades, the 63-year-old Greer purchased the Golden Ox steakhouse with Bill Teel in 2003, after opening several other restaurants and consulting on a half-dozen more. Greer retired this year because, he says, “it was time — I thought I was ready to retire.”

Greer still owns his stake in the 65-year-old steakhouse: “I’m waiting for Bill Teel to buy me out or for something to happen with the business,” he says.

It had been a hell of a long career for the Kansas City native, who got his first restaurant job at age 14, washing dishes at the old Sambo’s restaurant in Mission. By the time he was in college, at Kansas State University, he was a waiter and bartender at the old Leather Bottle restaurant at the Landing, at 63rd Street and Troost. After three years studying accounting, he was ready to fully commit to a restaurant career, starting full time with Gilbert/Robinson when the company was building the Alameda Plaza Hotel — now the Kansas City InterContinental.

“That was an interesting time to be in the hotel business,” Greer says. “We went through three major construction strikes before the hotel opened.”

It was also the same time period when the company owners, restaurateurs Joe Gilbert and Paul Robinson, turned a former men’s clothing store on the Country Club Plaza into the first Houlihan’s Old Place, a hip saloon and bar aimed at a swinging baby-boomer demographic.

“The concept caught on like wildfire,” Greer says. “We were opening them all over the country.”

Greer left Gilbert/Robinson in 1986 to help another G/R executive launch the national (but ultimately ill-fated) T.J. Cinnamon’s bakery chain.

“I don’t know what, exactly, I want to do with this chapter of my life,” Greer says, “but I’d like to stay in the food-service business. It’s the business that I know and love. I’d start another restaurant, with the right partners, but it’s a very different industry now.

“The restaurant business has a revolution every 25 to 30 years, and it’s no different now. I think it’s time for chain restaurants to ‘de-chain.’ I mean, the 30-something dining community of today was taken to the traditional chain restaurants as children, and those are the same restaurants that they don’t want to patronize as young adults.”

Greer says the “fast casual” concepts on the East and West Coasts of the United States “focus on serving really, really good food that appeal to all ages, all income levels, at a very economical price point. We’re just starting to see some of that evolution here in the Midwest.”

Greer cites Panera Bread and Starbucks as modern chains that resonate with younger patrons.

“It’s all about quality now,” Greer says. “It can’t be just about the bottom line.”

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink