All About Ralph’s Great Divide…
The east end of the building was constructed pre-civil war from lumber milled on site with brick exterior and was the location of an original carriage and, ultimately, auto repair shop. The west end was attached around the turn of the 1900’s century and, following prohibition became a neighborhood pub called “Shifferdecker & Shifferdecker” for the brothers who owned and operated it. Later it was sold to Bob Condon and became Condon’s Corner for many years until the Brooks family purchased it in 1982.
The Business was named “The Great Divide” for the location’s division of Davidson and Fulton Streets. It was believed at the time those streets would become widely recognized, as Davidson already was a downtown interstate exit and Fulton was designed to connect as the other inbound off ramp. Lockerbie Square renovation was well under way as the great historical community it is today, and proudly boasts the most famous of its residents, the poet James Whitcomb Riley. The blocks east of College and ending at Davidson were incorporated into Lockerbie in 1992, thus making the physical property of The Great Divide officially historic as well. Changing anything about the exterior appearance is virtually impossible.
In the early days the business was operated by Ralph Brooks, or “Mister Ralph” as he was affectionately called. From his career in institutional food sales and management Ralph knew a lot about setting the stage for the turnaround prepared for The Great Divide and began modest food service. June Brooks was finishing her career at the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library System and assisted Ralph by evening, as well as the support lent by their three children, Roger, Lee Anne and David.
Ralph passed away very unexpectedly at the Annual Marine Corps Dinner in December of 1994. He had served in World War II and continued throughout his life to support the causes the Corp holds dear, Toys for Tots and Educational Support. The “Ralph E. Brooks Memorial Scholarship Fund” was established and the generosity of many people launched Ralph’s wish into reality. The Fund is endowed to Butler University, (whose name you have to know by now) Ralph’s alma mater. When June passed in 2002, her name was added to the Scholarship Fund, and each year a benefit is held at the re-named “Ralph’s Great Divide”. The “Ralph E. & June W. Brooks Memorial Scholarship Fund” awards $2,500 each to two students every year in The College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. To date, the fund is valued at over $110,000.
David joined The Great Divide full time in 1986 after studying at the I.U. School of Music and completing a 6-year tour with the United States Marine Corp. He continues his music education at The Jordan College of Music at Butler University where today he seeks the counsel of Dr. Frank Felice in music composition. This multi-talented man completely took the reins of growing The Great Divide’s reputation for the perfect trifecta of quality, unique and affordable food, and thus began the evolution of the menu defining the trademark, “Good Things Made Better.”
Daily lunch and dinner “specials” are often the testing and proving ground for menu enhancements, but the “regulars” demand the now franchise Dave’s Bourbon Baked Ham, Hot Pot Aug & Hot Pot Pig, brother Roger’s recipe for Pea Salad, The Beef Tenderloin Tips with Bacon Horsey Sauce and many, many other items long offered on both lunch and dinner menus. David, aka “The Piano Man” brought that very instrument into RGD in 2006 and live entertainment was also added to the menu of diner expectations. All of David’s own compositions have made their public debut in the family establishment plus Monday Night features “Piano-oke”; Friday Night is the calmer “Moon River” like tunes until after 8:30 or 9:00 when classic show tunes and pop culture favorites delight the later night toe tappers and wannbe vocalists.
In addition, David and Susan Flewelling, RGD’s Wine, Spirits & Beer Manager, have together developed themed “Wine Tasting” events designed to feature select wines with types of foods. Led by local wine experts, diners sample new food creations complimented by the appropriate wines. New menu items emerge from these events as well.
In 2010, despite all the changes, additions, evolutions and enhancements through the 28 years of growing RGD, nothing has really changed at the baseline: Quality products with inventive and unique ingredients and tried-and true methods of preparation truly do Make Good Things Better at Ralph’s Great Divide, including our customers. In addition to the Scholarship Fund raiser, these folks embrace RGD’s efforts to give back with special events supporting Canine Assistance Programs, Dining Out for Life, the Alzheimer’s’ Association, the Lockerbie Foundation and the many other Organizations who request Gift Certificates for their advancement.
Photos courtesy Mary M. DeVore. Contact at email@example.com.