CLINTON -- The new co-owner of J & D Steakhouse is enjoying being at home rather than on the road.
Anthony Garibay owned his own trucking company for roughly five years, but life on the road was beginning to take its toll on the Savanna, Illinois native. Garibay, a frequent diner at J & D, tried to talk owner Tracy Smith, who didn't like working such long hours, into selling the restaurant to him.
Instead, the men decided to become partners. In January, Garibay bought in to the business, and now the men split the hours that Smith used to have to work himself.
The first few months in the kitchen have been rewarding already, Garibay said this week.
"Being home was pretty important for me," Garibay said. "For the most part, everything has gone really well since I've been here. I've actually had some experience working at other restaurants in the past so I was kind of familiar with the work," he said.
"Now what's important is making sure customers are getting the same great food, and the same great service as they have in the past."
In its 50 years in business, the steakhouse, which has always been located at 320 S. Second St., had only two owners until Smith purchased the business in August, Garibay said. In January, Garibay became his partner.
The pair remodeled the restaurant, a process which Garibay said "went great." They took out the 1970s carpet and put in new flooring, brightened the dining area and removed the pictures and newspaper clippings from the wall, he said.
Some people referred to the restaurant as a hole in the ground, Garibay said. He and Smith wanted the decor to be as good as the food.
The open floor plan will continue to ensure that loyal customers are able to enjoy their highly revered steaks, burgers, sandwiches and more.
The notion of expansion has been thrown around, though the mere idea is in its infancy stage, according to Garibay. The owners need more time to see if the restaurant's customer base would be able to support the possible investment.
"We kind of want to see how a full year goes, what all four seasons look like before we even go any further with that," Garibay said. "In the restaurant business you definitely see your slower seasons, so we need to wait and watch what those look like for us."
Garibay said he and Smith know customers have come to know and love the classics at the steakhouse from years past, so the menu has remained "pretty much the same" since the duo began their operations. Those customers have come to be Garibay's favorite part of the new endeavor after spending years in a truck, mostly isolated from other people for long periods of time.
"The most rewarding part for me is just socializing and having conversations with the people that walk in the door," Garibay said. "When you're a trucker like I was for those years, so much of the time is spent stuck behind a steering wheel with no one but yourself. It's easy to become kind of anti-social.
"That's the biggest change I've seen since I started here, Garibay said. "Things are going pretty well, and those customers that come in and you get to know them are a big reason why."
Garibay's wife, Megan, and Smith's wife, Jennifer, also work at the steakhouse. Toni Ixba waits on customers, and her brother David May serves as second cook.
J&D Steakhouse is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.