By Mark Fisher
Dayton Daily News, Ohio.
Restaurateur Mary Miller tried to retire a couple of years ago.
It didn’t work out so well.
“I’m not made for retirement,” said the 74-year-old Miller, who co-founded and co-owns three Dayton-area restaurants and is involved in a couple more. “I guess I’m what they call a Type A personality. I’m happier being busy.”
Miller’s holdings consist of restaurants of widely varying concepts in three separate communities: The Barnsider, which she co-founded 40 years ago in Harrison Twp.; The Wellington Grille in Beavercreek, where she spends most of her time overseeing dinner service; and Harrison’s Restaurant in Tipp City.
Her brother, Raymond Jean, who is a partner in the three restaurants, and her daughter, Kelley Andary, own the Blue Berry Cafe in Bellbrook (It was Miller’s suggestion to buy it). And Miller is also involved in a new restaurant near the University of Dayton, Ginger & Spice Asian Bistro, although she has no direct ownership stake.
And she is considering another new-restaurant opportunity in the Vandalia area. “I can’t sit still very long,” she said.
Born in China, Miller moved to Hong Kong as a child, then emigrated with her family to Canada when she was 13. She attended community college in Michigan before finding a job in an Asian restaurant on Reading Road in suburban Cincinnati, where she learned the restaurant business from the bottom up, from bartending to the kitchen.
The restaurant’s owners were so impressed they decided to take their first vacation in many years and left her in charge for a week.
After settling in Dayton, Miller was poised to open a Chinese restaurant in Needmore Road north of Dayton when a partner — who was also going to be the chef — bailed out at the last minute. A series of events then led her to lease the space that would become her first restaurant: The Barnsider, which opened in 1975.