The Norman Transcript

June 9, 2008

Goldie's: Love at first bite

New ownership carries on family tradition

By Tom Blakey

Transcript Staff Writer

It may have been love at first bite.

The first night Rhiannon went to work at Goldie's Patio Grill, manager Tyler Abla placed a rose under the windshield wiper of her car.

"Then I scheduled her to work with me as much as I could. Making the schedule had its advantages," Tyler said.

Last week, Tyler and Rhiannon celebrated their two-year wedding anniversary.

Goldie's has played, and continues to play, a major part in the Ablas' lives and in the lives of their closest friends.

The Ablas' now own Goldie's, having taken ownership of the restaurant March 13.

"It was always a dream of mine to buy it -- it just came true a lot earlier than we thought," Tyler said.

When the previous owner of Goldie's decided to sell the restaurant and move on to other things, Tyler said he "took the opportunity to buy it."

"I checked around and found the resources to purchase it. Things fell into place, with help from our family and friends," he said.

Goldie's also has played a major part in the life of Tyler's mother, Chris Abla.

Chris answered a newspaper ad and came to work at Goldie's 10 years ago in August.

"Lloyd Stricker, the previous owner, and I met and became instant friends," she said. "We still are. Lloyd has moved on to another venture-adventure."

Chris now manages Goldie's. She says many people think Goldie's "went away permanently" when it relocated from 1808 W. Lindsey St. to 1310 E. Alameda St. in December 2006.

"Our doors never closed -- everything is exactly the same. We still have the best burgers around," she said.

Goldie's employs 15 people. The restaurant maintains a loyal base of longtime customers -- some from when it was the original Boomerang at 1808 W. Lindsey St. -- and a loyal base of new customers as well. This week, the restaurant hosted a group of young cheerleaders from Arlington, Texas, in Norman for the junior high and middle school cheer camp at the University of Oklahoma.

"They stopped in for a famous burger and plan to be back with us every year," Chris said.

Although the new restaurant on east Alameda is in a somewhat concealed location, one can't miss the flavorful aroma of charbroiled burgers that permeates the area. The burgers are cooked to order on an open flame grill. The restaurant itself has a distinct OU motif, and the big screen TVs are tuned to the Sooners on game days. A comfortable banquet room accommodates parties and large gatherings

"It's a Sooner hangout," Rhiannon said. "It's cool collecting OU memorabilia and we're always looking for new stuff."

After she waitressed at Goldie's for two years, Rhiannon attended OU and graduated in 2006 with a degree in advertising. She's a graphic designer and designed the menus and Goldie's T-shirts.

"We try to make things better all the time. We introduced new lunch specials about a month ago," she said.

Tyler managed Goldie's for seven years, then took three years off, working for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

And even in those years, Tyler said he kept Goldie's a part of his life, volunteering to work a few shifts for the wage of a meal.

"I was thinking of making a T-shirt -- 'Will work for a burger and fries,'" he said.

Tyler graduated from OU in 2005 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Goldie's is a "made-in-Oklahoma franchise," Tyler said. The original Goldie's was opened in Tulsa in 1962 by Goldie and Melvin Crow and is still operated by the Crow family today.

"We're continuing the family-owned tradition," Tyler said. "It's how we got started and how I got through college -- how my mom got me through college.

"How special to own the place where Rhiannon and I met and where we grew close together. It means so much more now, and solidifies us in Norman."

Tom Blakey 366-3540