A Conversation With Rusty Loeffler and Robert Ross
Photo by Simon Hurst
Indisputably the nicest guys in the business, restaurateurs Rusty Loeffler and Robert Ross can still remember life before co-founding Interurban, but their paths have been so intertwined since they began their careers in 1971 that only conjoined twins spend more time together.
That kind of familiarity might drive a lot of people crazy, but “Rosser” and Loeffler happily go on finishing one another’s sentences as they plan their next restaurant opening soon. Of course, they were happy to share the spotlight this month.
How long have you worked together?
RR: Since the summer of 1971. We got jobs waiting tables in Milwaukee.
RL: But we’ve known each other since 2nd grade Sunday school.
And Interurban was born in …
Have you been together longer than you’ve been married to your wives?
RR: No. Nancy and I have been married for 41 years.
RL: Their anniversary is August 20.
RR: How do you remember that? I wish you had remembered that on my 3rd anniversary. It might have turned out better.
RL: Michele and I have also been married for 41 years.
Were you troublemakers in school?
RR: Maybe a little.
RL: My 7th grade teacher thought I took the Lord’s name in vain one time and she washed my mouth out with soap. But I didn’t say it! All I said was, “gawwwwl.”
What are you learning to do these days?
RL: I just bought a pistol, so I’m learning how to shoot it.
Wait … does your 7th grade teacher know this?
Do either of you collect anything?
RR: Baseball cards. I’ve got a 1956 Mickey Mantle.
What’s still on your bucket lists?
RL: I’d like to go to the best bass hole in the world (wherever that is) and catch that 14-pounder. I’d also like to go to Israel and to Spring Training.
RR: I’d really like to take a cruise through the South Pacific to see the Southern Cross.
If you see that is on TV, you can’t help watching.
RR: “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” (*Here, Ross names the entire cast of the movie, right down to the key grip and best boy.)
RL: A hunting and fishing show.
RR: Do they have a senior angling show?
RL: I sound like I’m all about fishing, but Rosser got me into it on our first fishing trip to Canada in ’85.
Isn’t it enough that you’re together every day? You take vacays together, too?
RL: Oh, we’ve taken a lot of vacations together. Fishing trips, football trips. Our families come, too.
Which movie can you recite the words to?
RL: The Jack Nicholson courtroom scene from “A Few Good Men.”
RR: (*Ross spontaneously recites ALL the speaking parts from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” for the next five minutes.)
When they make a movie about you guys, who should play the roles?
RR: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
RL: Agreed. Or maybe Art Carney and Jackie Gleason.
What will you accomplish by the end of the year, no matter what?
RR: I’m taking that South Pacific cruise.
RL: I’m going to shoot another buck. My wife wants two more sets of antlers, but you can only shoot one buck a year with the rifle, so I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to get the second set.
RR: Well, how many of ‘em can you shoot with that pistol?
What advice would you put into a fortune cookie?
RR: Keep the ball down.
RL: Don’t give up.
What’s not all it’s cracked up to be?
RR: Lance Armstrong.
What character traits do you appreciate in one another?
RR: Rusty’s diligence and unbridled optimism.
RL: Rosser’s sense of humor and the fact that he’s a great father, grandfather and a man of integrity.
What were your teachers wrong about?
RR: My journalism teacher, Lois Thomas, never believed that we WERE trying to sell an ad that afternoon at Fred’s Pool Hall.
RL: My 7th grade teacher was wrong about me taking the Lord’s name in vain! I didn’t do it! RR: Let it go, Rusty.
Do you have a nonprofit shout-out?
RL: Love Works, a Norman-based tutoring, mentoring and leadership program for at-risk 6th graders.
RR: My church, Journey Church, and Young Life.
RL: We go to the same church, too.
Any current projects?
RR: Yes! We’re about to open our new restaurant in Automobile Alley – it’s called Packard’s New American Kitchen.
RL: Opening in March!
What do you wish you were better at saying “no” to?
RR: Magazine interviews.