AMANA — When Marshalltown native Doug Cox left his nine-to-five to learn the restaurant industry, he never imagined he’d soon be operating the historic Ronneburg Restaurant in the Amana Colonies alongside his sister. But it turned out that’s how it all came together.
Cox quit his architectural job in 2017 for a position at the Cedar Rapids-based Lion Bridge Brewing Company. He knew he wanted something outside of an office and he knew he wanted to learn the restaurant industry so he could one day open his own business.
“I decided that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life entirely in front of a computer, and I wanted to sort of mix between being part of a community and doing something physical,” Cox said.
While Cox’s original goal was to open his own restaurant, that dream turned into something else entirely. While working at the brewery, he ended up meeting one of the former owners of the Ronneburg restaurant in Amana, a restaurant that had been under different owners for 72 years.
Cox was introduced to then-owners Yana and David Cutler. After running the restaurant for about 20 years, the Cutlers were ready to start a new chapter in their lives, and they were ready to teach Cox the many intricacies of the Ronneburg. The opportunity was too good for Cox to pass up.
In August 2019, Cox started working for the Cutlers with the intention of buying the Ronneburg, but due to some obstacles, including the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he ultimately only bought the restaurant. in August 2021.
The Ronneburg resides in a building that served as the community kitchen for the Amana settlements and was built in 1860. It is a popular attraction in Amana, and as a result, Cox realized he couldn’t l take on alone.
He reached out to his sister, Liz Busch, and brother-in-law Bryan Busch to see if they were interested in directing him alongside him. Liz said she was happy to go into business with her brother as they worked together in the past, and she ended up quitting her job at the company to become co-owner of the restaurant in April.
“We’re both big foodies, lovers of experimentation and I too, my husband and I, were looking to get involved in something we could do on our own,” Liz Busch said. “It was definitely a desire on both of our sides, just doing something as a family, doing something on our own and the fact that it’s about food and such a fun city is a bonus.”
The siblings have had a great experience with the business so far, and they are happy to be working with the public again after the pandemic put a damper on restaurant operations for a while.
Cox really enjoys being away from the “rat race”, as he puts it, and looks forward to running the Ronneburg restaurant for the foreseeable future, but the food industry is not without its challenges.
“Like every other restaurant right now, we need staff,” said Liz Busch. “It’s definitely the world we live in right now, that it’s been difficult to hire enough staff.”
Cox echoed his sister’s sentiments, and he added that inflation also presented challenges for the restaurant as food prices had risen dramatically.
“Our problem right now is not business at all. People are rediscovering Amana, maybe if they want a quick little getaway with gas prices being what they are, but the business is – people want to eat out and people want to get together with their families and so on that’s not the problem it’s literally the flip side of making sure you have enough staff to support the needs of people who want to come in,” Cox said.
Challenges aside, they are still making plans for the future. Cox said they were considering redeveloping the bar so they could more easily host events or live music, and were keeping a list of other small projects to update the Ronneburg restaurant to improve the customer experience.
When asked what prompted him to dive into the industry from his previous position in architecture, Cox said he loved the atmosphere of the restaurant and the fact that he was surrounded by people who wanted to be there.
“What I say to people all the time, to other colleagues here, is that nothing is urgent and your job is to make people’s day a little bit better, and for me that’s – fine sure it can be stressful at times because you’re trying to get people hot food efficiently there, but your job, literally, is to make their day a little bit better through service, through your food, through experience and that kind of stuff, so it’s part of a positive environment,” he said.
As Cox approaches its one year anniversary of ownership and Liz Busch settles in as co-owner, the restaurant is booming and the two siblings are excited about the future of the Ronneburg.
To learn more about Ronneburg, located at 4408 220th Trl., Amana, Iowa, 52203, visit https://ronneburgrestaurant.com/.
Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611