Founded in 1807, Troy, Ohio is a small Midwestern city which has a heritage full of unique personalities, stories, inventions, and events- funny and tragic. This blog is a means of sharing these vignettes, full-length stories and humorous escapades with Trojans near and far, or individuals just interested in local history.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The World of Skating and Buffalo Wings in Troy

(Previously published by Troy Daily News; Troy, Ohio)

I am cheating a bit on this post because it is actually an article I wrote for our local newspaper a couple of weeks ago.  I hope you enjoy it!

Come gather around and let me share a tale of some interesting Troy history. For some of the more 'experienced' in the community, you may already know this story. But for many, I am sure, you probably are not aware of this brief account, so sit back for a few minutes and read of Troy's part in some popular history.

In the latter half of the 1950's Troy was a bustling community with a population hovering about 13,000, but that number was quickly expanding. The superhighway - I-75 - was only a few years old and was still "way out west of town" near the ever-growing development of Westbrook. It was a friendly town where everyone knew one another, or at least knew who others were. It was a safe and peaceful community with only the occasional serious criminal interruption.

The community was blessed with many home-grown businesses and manufacturers, which not only provided a great tax-base for the city, but these fine entrepreneurs also re-invested in their hometown.

By 1959, One of the great benefits which Troy had enjoyed for almost a decade was Hobart Arena - given to the city by the Hobart family through the C.C. Hobart Foundation. This gem was a unique winter recreational facility in the region and with it Troy citizens enjoyed semi-professional hockey, ice skating shows, circuses, and performances by some of the best talent of the day, including Elvis, a young and popular Pat Boone, older generation favorite Lawrence Welk and cowboy hero Roy Rogers with Dale Evans and Trigger. There was something for everyone at the arena.

Looking back through the corridor of time, it should come as no surprise that with a facility such as Hobart Arena available that Troy also had a thriving skating club (We still do). Interested people, both young and old, beginners or advanced, could take lessons and learn basic skating skills for enjoyment or grow to become competitive skaters for the Troy Skating Club.

As with most clubs, be they golf, tennis, or skating, the club also enjoyed the benefit of a professional skating instructor in the late 1950's by the name of Nino Minelli. Mr. Minelli was a good teacher known for his skill and precision and was well thought of in the midwest. When Mr. Minelli announced he was leaving Troy for other professional opportunities many despaired of again finding such a talented individual who would be willing to come to a small city like Troy.

Meanwhile, in the Queen City, there was a young couple employed at the old Cincinnati Gardens as instructors for the skating public of that area. This husband and wife team had recently taken guardianship of an 11 year old skating talent by the name of Jimmy Disbrow. In addition, they were expecting their first child and their income was being stretched to the point of snapping. They were concerned about the future. So, when a friend from Chicago who was involved in the skating loops of the midwest told Dave and Rita about the opening which recently opened in Troy they were hopeful about the possibilites.

After the intial contact and several interviews, Dave and Rita Lowery became the new skating professionals for the Troy Skating Club at Hobart Arena in 1959. Dave, a native of Oshawa, Ontario, was a friendly young man with a ready smile. He was slender and skilled in skating and very knowledgable in the sport. Rita, his young wife, the one with the sparking eyes and a 'light up the room' smile, was originally from the far reaches of northern Scotland. So far north, according to Rita, that if you went any further you would be swimming in the North Sea. She had been trained in stage and dance, but was also a talented skater. Mr and Mrs. Lowery made a formidable team of skating talent and choreographic creativity.

Not long after settling into Troy, Scott, the Lowery's first child, was born at Stouder Hospital. In a few years, he was joined by his sister Kristen. The young family of five continued to enjoy their home in Troy and made many friends as they became involved in a number of activities.

For eight years, the Lowery's brought much success and recognition to the Troy Skating Club and helped to develop many talented individuals, including Jimmy Disbrow, who had a great amateur figure skating career. Through hard work he garnered several national titles in both singles and pairs, and spent two years touring internationally with Holiday On Ice. Scott and Kristen also benefited from their parents guidence and became quite accomplished skaters.

As the family grew and the times changed, the Lowerys, once again, found themselves in tight financial straights, mainly because the skating instruction position was only an eight month contract, leaving a fourth month financial gap to fill each year. So, with some sadness, they began to search for other opportunities to gain a better financial footing and perhaps advance their careers. It was a good time to move. Jimmy had graduated from Troy High School in 1966 and Scott and Kristen were still young enough to adapt to a move to a new community. Soon they landed positions with Bowling Green State University as "on staff" instructors and coordinators of the new ice arena and program at BGSU. In a recent interview, Dave stated, "It was just too good to pass up."

Since those days, the Lowerys have moved several times and have enjoyed a number of successful ventures, including owning a large costume company for skating competition outfits, U.S. Olympic coaching and, of course, individual coaching with several well-known skaters, including Scott Hamilton.

At one point the family resided in Buffalo, New York. The kids had grown up and were mainly out on their own and taking on their own adventures. In 1981, Jimmy Disbrow found himself in Kent, Ohio judging an amateur skating contest and afterward met up with his brother Scott in order to find something to eat. Well, having lived in Buffalo for some time, they had both acquired a liking for authentic Buffalo-styled chicken wings. Alas, they were not to be found anywhere in the area. Out of their culinary frustration, Disbrow and Lowery vowed to open their own restaurant where people could enjoy Buffalo Wings outside of the Niagra region. The next year they completed their goal by opening the first Buffalo Wild Wings® in Columbus, Ohio. Originally called Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck (BW3® ). The weck was thinly sliced roast beef piled high on kummelweck (salt and carraway seed crusted kaiser bun), which is another western New York tradition. The name was later shortened, but the success has been phenomenal with almost 700 restaurants in 42 states. In addition, just last year the corporation announced it planned to open 50 restaurants over the next five years in Canada.

So there is my little tale of how a family with Troy ties and careers in figure skating got into the Buffalo Wing business. It only seems appropriate that Troy has its very own restaurant . . . it kind of seems like it rightfully belongs here.

Sadly, Jimmy Disbrow passed away in 2002, leaving a deep void in the Lowery family and the skating community, but Dave and Rita's family left its mark on the skating community, the arena and Troy during their time here. They still have many friends here who they visit from time-to-time. They impacted this community in many ways, but did Troy do anything for them? Well, if you ask, they will enthusisatically tell you, "Troy was wonderful! We loved it." Dave, almost with melancholy, said, "In some ways, I wish we'd never left."

So, the next time you are at BW3 ® with friends or family, sink your teeth into a "Mild" or perhaps a "Blazin'" wing and recall the fun-filled history Troy shares with the Lowerys, Jimmy Disbrow and Buffalo Wild Wings® . Hmmm, I wonder if Troy could be designated the unofficial birthplace of Buffalo Wild Wings® ?

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