The idea for Ruby’s Diner was born in 1980 after a run on the beach. Doug Cavanaugh had just returned to his native Southern California after successfully restoring and running a restaurant on Nantucket Island off Cape Cod. One evening he was brainstorming about business opportunities with his father, and remembered that he had seen a dilapidated building at the end of Balboa Pier while jogging along the beach. Although the building was in pretty bad shape, Cavanaugh noticed its architecture really lent itself well to that of a 1940’s diner. With his father’s encouragement, Cavanaugh started to make the restaurant a reality.
To enlist help for the project, Cavanaugh reached out to his friend, Ralph Kosmides. After they obtained a long-term lease on the building that had once been a bait shop, Cavanaugh and Kosmides decided to move forward with a 1940’s American diner theme to bring back the fun and nostalgia of the era.
To make the diner feel authentic, Cavanaugh and Kosmides scavenged antique and memorable stores in Southern California for 1940’s artifacts. After remodeling most of the building themselves, Cavanaugh and Kosmides opened the doors about a year later on December 7th, 1982. Much to her surprise, the tiny-45 seat restaurant was named after Cavanaugh’s mother, Ruby.
With three employees and a simple menu of hamburgers, hot dogs and malts, the restaurant brought in a whopping $63 on its first day.
Although Cavanaugh and Kosmides were nervous on opening day, they were encouraged when they saw people walk around the pier, look into the diner and smile. “It was as if they were remembering a simpler, happier time,” says Kosmides. With this success in hand, Cavanaugh and Kosmides realized that they had tapped into something that appealed to a wide range of people of all ages.
Now, 35 years after Cavanaugh saw the run-down building at the end of the pier, Ruby’s Diners can be found in all different parts of the country, such as Houston, New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania, and is continuing to expand – with many locations currently open.